BT Boosts Broadband Speeds for Home and Business

Millions of homes and businesses are set to enjoy a free broadband boost after BT announced it will more than double the headline speeds for its residential and business customers.

The move, which comes in advance of Lord Carter’s Digital Britain Report, will lead to an increase in average broadband speeds.

Over 60,000 consumers are already enjoying the faster speeds through a BT trial and the upgrade to ADSL 2+ technology will be available to other homes in the summer. BT Retail broadband customers already enjoy speeds of up to 8Mb/s. The plans will see consumers and business in enabled areas receive faster speeds of up to 20Mb/s as part of their broadband service at no extra cost.

Based on BT’s 21CN platform, the faster speeds will initially be available from 549 telephone exchanges, serving more than 10 million – or some 40 per cent – of the UK’s homes and businesses. BT plans to extend that coverage to 55 per cent by March 2010 subject to customer demand.

As well as boosting download speeds, upload speeds will increase to up to 1Mb/s. The faster service will enable customers to surf, upload or download data in a fraction of the time, even when several users are on the same connection. This means less waiting around for complex web pages to download and graphics to upload. It is also good news for businesses looking to use rich media or boost their websites.

BT research has shown that one of the major causes of slower broadband speeds lies in customers’ home wiring. To address this, BT is set to offer the BT Broadband Accelerator that eliminates electrical interference from telephone-extension wiring, and can improve broadband speeds and reliability. BT will be giving away the devices free to consumers and businesses that are likely to benefit. Crucially, this will mean more customers with marginal broadband speeds will exceed the 2Mb/s threshold required to benefit from the full range of new internet services, something Lord Carter’s report is set to address.

Gavin Patterson, chief executive officer, BT Retail said “Unlike other providers, BT is upgrading customers to 20Mb/s for free. High-speed broadband provides a faster and more reliable service that will transform the way we live, work, learn and play. We are already the UK’s largest retailer of broadband and today’s announcement shows that we offer terrific value for money. We believe the true value of broadband is in helping customers enjoy the exciting new services that it makes possible. In line with the Government’s Digital Britain review, we will be making higher speeds more widely available.

In a separate move, BT Retail will begin the first trials of up to 40Mb/s super-fast fibre-based broadband in Whitchurch, South Wales and Muswell Hill, London this summer. Openreach is already delivering speeds of up to 100Mb/s to customers in the Ebbsfleet Valley in Kent, using fibre-to-the-premise (FTTP) technology.

ADSL2+ – BT Consumer

From early summer, new customers or recontracting BT Total Broadband customers in an enabled exchange area will automatically be eligible for up to 20Mb/s broadband service from as little as £7.78 per month. Customers will be able to order, or simply find out when they can get up to 20Mb/s and what speed they can expect, via BT.com. Existing customers will be asked to sign a new contract.

BT Broadband Accelerator (also known as the BT I-Plate) worth £11.74 will be offered free to customers in instances where BT believes performance can be improved. Customers will have to pay £2.50 post & packaging.

ADSL2+ – BT Business

From launch, any new or recontracting BT Business Broadband customer in an enabled exchange area will automatically be eligible for the up to 20Mb/s service. Orders can be placed by customers direct online, or via any offline business sales channel. Customers will not pay any more for the new service, which offers up to 20Mb/s downstream speeds. The upstream (customer to exchange) line speed will improve to 1Mb/s.

The BT Business Total Broadband tariff also remains the same and includes BT Openzone Wi-Fi minutes. BT Business Option 3 customers also receive free mobile broadband and other business services worth over £750. BT Business Total Broadband is available from £12.50 (ex VAT) per month including 24/7 UK freephone business support. Businesses also have the flexibility to build their own communications package by bundling their broadband with calls to UK landlines, mobiles and international numbers from only £27.50.

BT Broadband Accelerator (also known as the BT I-Plate) worth £11.74 will be offered free to customers in instances where BT believes performance can be improved.

Michael Phillips, product director at BroadbandChoices.co.uk commented: “This is great news for consumers – research we have conducted in the past has shown that broadband customers do not want to pay extra for a faster connection so BT has definitely upped the ante by giving a free broadband boost. Offering increased speeds at an existing price structure will put pressure on O2, Sky and Virgin Media who all charge a premium.”

“Although this won’t be the cheapest package in its speed bracket after the introductory offer has expired, BT’s strong brand and large customer base will certainly bring more competition to the superfast broadband market.”

“Any broadband user prompted by this news to switch to BT should be aware they will need to check that the exchange serving their home is capable of providing this new service. It would be disappointing to switch only to find they could not enjoy the 20Mb product. Existing BT customers will need to sign a new contract to qualify for the upgrade, so they should be comfortable with being tied to BT for another year at least.”