Making new connections

The way we think about the network is changing. Traditional networks did different things. Our phone calls ran over the PSTN network. Mobiles relied on transmitters beaming our mobile network across the land. And then came broadband, initially piggy-backing the PSTN network before landing on its own fibre network.

But those siloes are swiftly becoming a thing of the past. Today, we’re building one converged network, where devices switch seamlessly between the underlying technologies depending on what you’re doing with your device.

  • We’re building towards a highly configurable and adaptable network, where every connected device works seamlessly with whatever attributes you need – bandwidth, latency, and so on – in a safe, secure environment. 

  • Consumers, businesses, public and private organisations are all consuming ever higher bandwidths, clamouring for more features, ubiquitous coverage, continuous availability, and seamless connectivity between fixed, mobile, and cloud-based services.

We live and work in a connected world where people want seamless service, great products and the best connectivity there is. Building a truly converged fixed and mobile network is at the heart of that. Our customers want their services wherever they are, regardless of the technology used to deliver them. And that’s our number one priority, building a network for the future, for our customers.

Howard Watson Chief Technology Officer

How we’re future-proofing
the nation’s network

Our network is everywhere

You may not even realise you’re using it but modern life is only possible because of the work we’ve put into creating, maintaining, and expanding our network.

We all know we’re using the network when we’re streaming TV, checking in on our social media, and downloading photos from the cloud, but there are myriad connections continually happening in the background. The NHS, blue light services, and air traffic control all rely on a robust, secure, nimble network to keep us safe.

Smart manufacturing 5G
Smart manufacturing 5G

Businesses of all stripes are increasingly reliant on cloud-based apps for everything they do: think Microsoft Office 365, Adobe Creative Suite, VoIP phone systems and so on. Smart cities wouldn’t be so smart without our network underpinning street lighting, car parking, traffic control, flood defences, payment systems, entry systems, and virtually-everything-systems.

And that’s just what we do now. The internet of things (IoT) is still in its infancy. We need to build a network that’s fully prepared for the challenges of the future. Seamless integration of cloud services is essential. And the more complex our network, the more devices we connect to it, the more applications that run over it, the more we need to protect it against cyber-criminals. Our network doesn’t just have to work, it has to be totally secure.

Our focus on the future

Openreach engineer installing fibre
Openreach engineer installing fibre

Increasing network capacity

The demands on network capacity are always increasing. And we’re always exploring ways of expanding that capacity. Currently, we’re looking at:

  • Developing and demonstrating new optical network technologies – right back to the fundamental physics
  • Developing innovative radio access network (RAN) technologies, including Massive MIMO, small cell and open RAN (O-RAN) technologies
  • Continuing to push the capabilities of our copper access network
  • Exploring alternative technologies such as satellite and drone based broadband for remote areas
Warehouse colleague
Warehouse colleague

Laying stepping stones to a future network

A future network needs future-first thinking; we have to build enablers into the current network that will make that future network possible. It’s as if we’re leaving tools for our developers to pick up further down the line. So we’re embedding enablers of emerging technology into the network. Things like cloud-native network architecture, AI and intelligent network management tools.

Two women looking at a mobile phone
Two women looking at a mobile phone

Optimising network performance

We strive to understand all aspects of our networks performance, from the fundamental network metrics (speed, latency, throughput, downtime, and so on – all the usual numbers on the dashboard) through to the true customer-level quality of experience (QoE).  This allows us to give the customer the best experience for their needs, every time.

Amelia Winterburn
Amelia Winterburn

Exploring the science of networks

To keep our place as network leaders and drive the next generation of network technology, we’re getting back to the basics: physics. Our Network Physics research group is searching for fundamental differences not just in the way we build our networks, but in the very things we build them from. We’re scrutinising new and emerging physics to push the boundaries of how science can help us to take a leap forward in the long term: our commitment to designing the future runs very deep indeed.   

Two engineers working at a fibre box
Two engineers working at a fibre box

Change is coming – voice is going digital

It’s time to make way for an all-IP (internet protocol). In the UK, the PSTN (public switched telephone network) remains the dominant telephone network. As a technology from the 20th century, it’s unable to keep pace with the digital demands we’re all placing on it today. 

That’s why we’re moving all our customers onto our new fully digital network. We’ve already started and by the time we’ve finished every phone line in the UK will be digital, routing all phone calls over IP rather than the tradition PSTN. Giving our customers crystal clear voice quality and integrating voice with the rest of their broadband services.

Research and development

Investing today to invent tomorrow

Networks business structure

Howard Watson

Chief Security and Networks Officer (CTO)

Appointed February 2016 as chief technology and information officer and became chief technology officer in March 2021. In September 2022, Howard’s role expanded to put security at the core of the business to accelerate BT’s ambition to become the world’s most trusted connector of people, devices and machines and become the Chief Security and Networks Officer.

Howard was formerly chief architect and managing director, global IT systems and led the technical teams behind the launch of BT Sport in 2013. Howard joined BT in 2011 and has 30 years of telecoms experience having spent time at Telewest Communications (now Virgin Media) and Cartesian, a telecommunications consultancy and software company.

Howard Watson

Greg McCall

Chief Networks Officer

Les Anderson

Chief Information Security Officer

Kirsty Baxter-Smith

Director of Operational Resilience & Service Management
Kirsty Baxter-Smith

Gabriela Styf Sjöman

MD, Research and Network Strategy
Gabriela Styf Sjoman

Jonathan Parr

Group Safety Director
Jonathan Parr

Dan Rider

Director of HR
Dan Rider

Emily Clark

Chief Financial Officer

Anna Epps / Richard Farnsworth

Corporate Affairs Director
Anna Epps and Richard Farnsworth

Rustum Rau

Legal Director
Rustum Rau