BT Calls Time On Old Dial-Up Service – Or Does It?

BT is pulling the plug on its dial-up Internet service – sort of. Users who can’t get broadband will be able to transfer their modem-based access to Plusnet, a BT subsidiary which is decked out to  look like a different provider.

BT announced that it is terminating its dial-up service as of 1 September, because so few people are currently using it, bringint to an end decades of modem-based provision from the UK’s incumbent.

End Of Line

BT is of course the largest ISP in the UK, with approximately 6.8 million customers. But TechweekEurope understands that BT only had a small number of customers still using its narrowband dial-up service.

And it wasn’t exactly cheap either. BT’s dial-up service cost £17.25 per month, but it wrote to its narrowband customers in June explaining its decision to terminate the service, and urged narrowband customers to transfer to broadband connections, which are available from £10 per month. BT said that broadband offers a more reliable and consistent service than the old dial-up connection.
But there’s a snag there, we hear you say. Some customers have to use a dial-up service, because their remote locations will not support a usable ADSL connection. fortunately for them, it’s not all over: they can move their dial-up service to BT’s Plusnet unit, where it will be cheaper by £2.26 per month.

“BT can confirm it is closing its dial up service in September,” the carrier told TechweekEurope in an emailed statement. “This is a legacy product that is only used by a tiny number of customers, most of whom can easily transfer onto broadband for a cheaper price.”

“Our estimate is that only one thousand of the current customers will be unable to access broadband following the change, but they will continue to have dial up access via Plusnet should they choose to, once again for a cheaper price,” it said. “No-one is being left without the option of an alternative service.”

Screeching Modems

Dial-up modems will of course be more familiar to the older generation, as it was the most common way to connect to the Internet in the days before the arrival of ADSL and broadband.

The modem featured an array of lights on its front panel and was connected to a computer and the telephone network. It worked by encoding and decoding Internet Protocol packets,(or “modulating and demodulating”, hence the name modem) on the audio carrier signal. Early modems had a top speed of 300bps, but they eventually reached 56 kbps, on a good quality phone line.

Establishing a connection usually took a few seconds, during which the device would emit a musical screech whilst it performed its handshake process, before any data transfers could take place.

Thus a little piece of Internet tech is about to be consigned to the historial dustbin, although it should be noted that in the UK, dial-up connections are still currently used in the banking sector, notably with chip-and-PIN machines and third-party automated teller machines (ATMs).

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Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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