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COVID-19 – ISP BT (EE) UK Offers Extra Support to Customers

Friday, March 20th, 2020 (10:11 am) - Score 2,489

BT (EE) has today become the latest broadband ISP and mobile operator to offer some free extras and support to their customers, which among other things includes changes to help the most vulnerable and ensuring that all of their users can access “unlimited” home broadband (no data caps).

On top of that BT’s Chief Technology and Information Officer, Howard Watson, has reiterated that the “UK’s communications infrastructure is well within its capacity limits, and has significant headroom for growth in demand.” We also got an update on how BT’s network has been impacted by the current situation, as more people work from home to help limit the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

So far the highest peak that BT saw occurred during evening traffic and hit 17.5Tbps (Terabits per second), which was driven by videogame updates and streaming football. In contrast, daytime usage, during working hours, generally runs at about 5Tbps. This was before COVID-19 really became an issue.

However, since Tuesday this week, as people started to work from home more extensively, BT said they’ve seen weekday daytime traffic increase 35-60% compared with similar days on the fixed network, peaking at 7.5Tbps. “This is still only around half the average evening peak, and nowhere near the 17.5Tbps we have proved the network can handle,” said Howard.

BT’s Other Data Traffic Observations

* We’re actually seeing a 5% decrease in mobile data traffic, as a lot of people are connecting their mobiles to their home WiFi, rather than using the cellular network.

* Data usage is peaking at around 5PM, the time of the Prime Minister’s daily briefing.

* Mobile traffic is becoming more evenly distributed across the country, as people travel into urban hubs less frequently.

* Roaming traffic is falling by about 10% per day, with a 55% drop over the last 5 days. [no surprise as roaming will have been impacted by travel restrictions]

* We are seeing an increase in mobile voice call volumes, which is to be expected. This is well within the levels the network is built to handle, but we would encourage customers to use the landline or IP voice services like Skype as well, especially for long conference calls.

* Organisations are also seeing increased numbers of connections into their corporate Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and conferencing services. This may mean that companies need to think about how they optimise use of these private networks, or increase their provision of such services.

Overall BT said that the additional load on their broadband network is “well within manageable limits and we have plenty of headroom for it to grow still further.” As for the changes they’re making to help customers, we’ve listed the main ones below.

BT’s Changes for Customers

* Access to NHS online and 111. More than ever, it’s critical for us all to be able to get up-to-date healthcare information, so all of our EE and BT mobile customers can now access the NHS online without using any of the data in their plan – even if they’ve run out of data completely. Calling 111 remains free for customers across the UK.

* Unlimited home broadband for all. We’re also removing all caps on your home broadband plans so every customer has unlimited data to use whether working from home, keeping the kids connected to school or streaming the latest films.

* Vulnerable customers: To help our most vulnerable BT landline only customers, we’re removing out-of-bundle charges for the most critical services, such as UK landline and mobile calls, and placing a £5 per month cap so they can make the essential calls they need to keep in touch, without worrying about their bill.

* Vulnerable customers: We have specialist teams trained in how to help customers with physical disabilities, mental health issues and a specialist dementia support team, who are doing their very best to ensure those vulnerable customers in isolation get the support they need.

* Financial support. We know this is already a stressful time for customers worried about their finances, so we’ve put in place a dedicated team to support customers that need extra help with their bills. If a customer contacts us with money worries related to Coronavirus, we’ll work out what works best for them.

At this point we assume that BT’s move to offer “unlimited” usage on broadband will also apply to their BT Basic + broadband social tariff, which is normally capped to 15GB. Otherwise the vast majority of their subscribers will already be on packages with an unlimited usage allowance, which has been the norm now for quite a few years.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar Steve

    So for most BT are giving as nothing extra. Thanks for that. To their credit their network is very reliable which is good when having to work from home. Spotting Openreach unlocking ducts for fibre during lunchtime was good to see although the engineer I spoke to did say it would be a while before I get it. At least they have started!

  2. Avatar CarlT

    As the load is spread fairly evenly they should be okay.

    The last time they suffered the higher demand was relatively localised so there were pain points.

    I know they’ve been busy upgrading equipment. Chassis from 200 Gb to 2 Tb and links from n * 10 Gb to 100 Gb.

    Hopefully that can continue and they can avoid being a bottleneck.

  3. Avatar NoThanksBt

    DSL
    DSL
    Aaaaaaah
    Ooohhhhh
    AAaaahh oohhh
    aaaaaa oohhhhhhh

    Wake up in the morning, with everything you work on in your face.
    BT group can’t even give me fibre it’s a disgrace
    my sad and lonely face
    mother will never understand why you can’t whatsapp her face

    run away, turn away turn away, run away.

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