BT pledges cheaper broadband services

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The Independent Online

BT's new chief executive Ben Verwaayen pledged to throw the company's energy behind a new broadband strategy which, he said, would be unveiled in a couple of weeks time.

Speaking publicly for the first time yesterday in his new role, Mr Verwaayen said: "Broadband is very important to BT. It is our future. We therefore, today, pledge commitment to broadband. In a couple of weeks time, we'll be able to come forward with a detailed plan of how we're going to execute on a commitment like this."

As part of that plan, he said BT would "substantially" cut the cost of the wholesale price of broadband access – a move that would allow other high-speed internet service providers to "substantially re-price" their own products.

It was the only clue, however, that he gave on BT's future strategy despite persistent speculation the company is keen to offer some kind of broadcast service to its customers alongside telephony and high-speed internet access.

"I'm three weeks into the job and it'd be pretty arrogant for me to stand before you and say this is the comprehensive strategy. From a strategic point of view you can expect from us, in a matter of months, that we'll come back and explain a detailed plan of what our strategy is," he said.

Shares in BT, which expects to find out at the end of March whether it has won a broadcast television licence, closed up 11.5p at 238.5p.

BT's underlying profit, or Ebitda, rose 2.2 per cent to £1.5bn in the third quarter to 31 December on sales up 4 per cent at £4.6bn.

The company ended 2001 with £13.6bn of debt, a reduction of £2.9bn over the three months.