BT to hire 3,000 engineers in drive to fill broadband ‘not-spots’

BT is to create 3,000 engineering jobs this year as part of a plan to speed up the rollout of fibre broadband and to eliminate “not-spots” in cities and suburban areas.

Kicking off a drive to upgrade the UK to the next-generation gigabit speed internet BT said it will recruit and train 3,000 engineers this year in order to reach its new target of 3m homes and businesses by 2020. It had previously committed to reaching 2m homes by that date.

The recruitment drive follows heavy job losses at the group, which last year announced it was axing 4,000 jobs worldwide. Half of the job losses were in the UK, with managerial and back-office posts bearing the brunt.

BT has said Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Leeds, Liverpool, London and Manchester will make up the first phase of the roll-outs, which will connect up to 40 UK towns and cities over the next decade.

“Openreach is getting on with the job of building an ultrafast Britain,” said Clive Shelley, chief executive of Openreach, the division which controls most of the UK’s broadband network. “We are accelerating our plans; where possible we will be ‘fibre first’. .”

BT has come under increasing pressure from politicians, regulators and business and consumer groups to invest more in what is considered the “gold standard” broadband that will deliver the speeds needed to drive the UK’s digital economy. Roll-out in the UK is far behind countries such as Spain and Portugal.

Fibre broadband will be 50 times faster than standard UK broadband and three times quicker than the fastest option currantly available from BT. Gigabit speeds will allow consumers to download 4K quality movies in minutes rather than hours.

While few consumers and businesses need such speeds now, it will underpin the data shifting requirements for 5G mobile networks as well as the so-called “internet-of-things” -–including fully automated homes, driverless cars and “smart” manufacturing.

Ofcom points out that with the boom in streaming and downloading video, fuelled by services such as Netflix, Amazon and Youtube, broadband data usage has grown at a rate of 36% a year.