ISP Review - Year in Review 2006
Article

Year in Review 2006
By: Mark Jackson - December 7th 2006 : Page 1 -of- 6
"the majority of max adopters have seen an improvement, yet one that frequently falls far short of the well publicised 8Mbps figure "

How do you gage progress? Is it technology that matters or the implementation, cost and services created? The answer to such a question is never clear until you examine the past, while considering the present and future with equal respect.

To understand how this has applied in 2006 we’ve written a summary of the past 12 months, noting all of the major changes, achievements and even failures. This piece is designed to offer a simple overview of the years many developments.

Speeding up broadband

BT began the year by bringing its ADSLMax technology to the masses, appearing to allow every ADSL broadband user the chance of reaching speeds well in excess of their original levels (up to 8 Megabits per second), well.. not quite. The “rate adaptive” technology (speed changes depending on line quality and distance from the exchange) ended up spending the first few months of its life having to endure a raft of consumer complaints.

Many had viewed MAX far too optimistically, expecting their often lowly links to be miraculously transformed into some kind of behemoth. Instead they experienced highly unstable connections and poor speeds, sometimes going lower than their original rate. BT eventually managed to fix “most” of the problems, albeit not quickly enough.

Ultimately the majority of max adopters have seen an improvement, yet one that frequently falls far short of the well publicised 8Mbps figure touted by ISP’s. Meanwhile BT’s rivals have not been resting on their laurels, most of which had already been offering similar and faster products long before BT’s own.

The downside to this is that, even today, many still view the 8Mbps promotions by their ISP’s as being the speed they expect to receive. This lack of understanding, boosted by poor communication on the part of providers, has fuelled confusion and a rising number of support calls. We frequently receive complaints from consumers whom have switched from their older package to a MAX option, only to be angered when the best they receive is far less than the advertised amount. This is natural, but not often understood.

However, not all such anger has been miss-placed. Some have “upgraded” (regrade) only to find themselves stuck with a slower and more unstable connection than before. While this can happen, it’s may also occur through poor ISP performance, adding to the confusion.

Unbundling the way forward

Through a process known as local loop unbundling (LLU), which allows rival ISP’s and operators to build their own kit into BT’s telephone exchanges, some providers were able to launch early ADSL2+ services offering speeds up to 24Mbps at an affordable price. Cable operators (ntl:Telewest) have been keeping pace too, with trials of 20Mbps and even 50Mbps getting underway.

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