‘Fastest Ever’ BT Broadband For Lucky Few

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BT Retail says it has leapfrogged Virgin Media with 100Mbps down / 15Mbps up – but only on fibre

BT Retail has bragged that it is now matching Virgin Media in the broadband speeds stakes and has beaten it for upload speeds – but only for the tiny minority of people who have fibre to their homes.

BT said that its BT Infinity Option 3 matches Virgin Media’s fastest commercial service by offering broadband customers download speeds of up to 100Mbps. It also claimed that it offers upload speeds that are 50 percent faster than Virgin Media, with up to 15Mbps on offer.

The BT Infinity Option 3 costs £35.00 a month and includes unlimited evening and weekend calls.

Upload Speeds

The arrival of BT Infinity Option 3, follows on from last month’s announcement from BT Openreach, when it officially launched its Fibre to the Home (FTTH) service, which it said at the time would initially offer speeds of up to 110Mbps. Now it seems to be up to 100Mbps.

“We are delighted to launch BT Infinity Option 3, which offers our fastest-ever speeds for consumers,” said John Petter, managing director of BT’s Consumer division, speaking about BT Infinity Option 3. “We are seeing very encouraging takeup of our fibre-based broadband and we now have more than 300,000 customers.

BT Fibre In Ducting

“Today’s addition expands our product offering, so we now have three versions of BT Infinity offering high speeds that allow families to do more online at the same time. BT Infinity Option 3 matches the top speed currently available in the UK and beats the upload speed offered by Virgin Media’s best offering,” he added.

Reality Check

But hang on, despite the grandstanding from BT, it is worth pointing out some salient facts here.

The first point to note is that it is unlikely that BT customers will see the full 100Mbps down and 15Mbps up, which is why BT uses the controversial “up to” disclaimer.

The second and more important point is that in reality this ‘full fat’ service is limited to a very small percentage of the population that enjoy a fibre connection from the telephone exchange right through to their homes or premises (i.e FTTH).

Indeed, BT is saying that BT Infinity Option 3 will only be available from a limited number of exchanges initially, (Ashford in Middlesex; Bradwell Abbey in Milton Keynes; Highams Park, Ilford Central and Leytonstone in London; Chester South; Exeter; Forest Hill; St Austell and York).

Virgin Media in comparison already offers speeds up to 100Mbps, and has done so for one year now. Its 100Mbps network stretches to one third of Brits, which is equal to 20 million people who can now achieve speeds of up to 100Mbps.

Fibre Catchup

BT is of course playing catch up with Virgin Media concerning fibre deployment, and it is investing £2.5 billion to deploy fibre to two-thirds of UK homes and businesses by the end of 2015. However most of these will not be FTTH, but will be the fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) option, which will provide much slower line speeds.

And of course these broadband bragging claims do nothing to solve the vexing issue of rural broadband, which threatens to see semi-rural and rural areas consigned to the broadband slow lane for the foreseeable future.

BT of course cannot be expected to the shoulder the financial burden for a complete nationwide fibre rollout. Meanwhile the government, despite its fine sounding rhetoric, has in reality yet to commit significant amounts of public money for what it call vital infrastructure for ‘economic growth’.

Instead it prefers to let the private sector carry the financial burden, whilst it provides relatively modest grants for local councils to put fibre into the ground.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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