BT hails Internet phone call ‘explosion’

BT has revealed that it has 1m customers making phone calls over the Internet, underlining how the group is staking its future on broadband provision.

Ben Verwaayen, BT chief executive, told the Financial Times that the group had seen an “explosion” in Voice over Internet Protocol usage, and was hitting its 1m target six months ahead of schedule.

The company could make further acquisitions to beef up the capability of its global services division, which serves the voice and data needs of multinational companies, he added.

Increasing revenue from broadband and multinational companies has underpinned BT’s improving performance. BT’s shares closed at 320.5p on Tuesday night, and their value has increased by 43.6 per cent over the past year.

BT’s retail division has secured 1m VoIP customers after an aggressive promotion of the internet phone technology alongside the roll-out of three new broadband deals last June.

All three deals require monthly broadband and line rental subscriptions, but offer free VoIP calls within the UK during evenings and weekends.

BT set its 1m target in July, when it had 235,000 VoIP customers. In its second quarter, ending on September 30, 59 per cent of BT’s new broadband customers took out deals that include its wireless router, the Home Hub, which enables them to use cordless phones for VoIP calls.

“The 1m is a demonstration of...combining services into one easy-to-use type of approach. That is why we have seen this explosion,” said Mr Verwaayen in an interview to mark five years as BT chief executive.

Mr Verwaayen played down the impact of increasing VoIP usage on BT’s revenue by highlighting how only between 15 and 20 per cent of its sales are dependent on voice calls.

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