Telecommunications giant BT plans to hire 1,600 new engineers as part of a recruitment drive for its local access network business Openreach, and expects a "significant number" of the roles to be taken up by ex-servicemen and women.

"Supporting business, creating jobs and providing a better future for hardworking people is a crucial part of our long-term economic plan," said Prime Minister David Cameron.

"So I am delighted that BT is launching this major recruitment drive for 1,600 engineers across the UK, providing financial security for families and delivering a world class infrastructure for Britain."

The firm claimed more than 19 million homes and businesses have access to the broadband network and the new recruits will help to improve customer service and bring the technology to even more communities.

"Millions of customers depend on broadband and they rely on us to keep them connected, whatever the weather. Our engineers do an incredible job," said Joe Garner, chief executive of Openreach.

"They have been rolling out fibre broadband faster than anywhere else in the world, and at the same time completing hundreds of thousands of jobs each week to keep people connected throughout the UK – an amazing achievement," he added.

The company also intends to hire more female engineers.