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BT Launch Hybrid 4G Speed Boost for SME Copper Broadband Lines

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022 (12:59 pm) - Score 9,360

UK ISP BT has today launched a new product for their small business customers – ‘Hybrid Speed Boost‘, which is specifically aimed at those still stuck on slower copper broadband lines. The service attempts to “fuse” fixed line and 4G based mobile broadband connections together to produce a faster connection.

The idea of boosting performance by aggregating (or bonding) different internet connection technologies together is nothing new, but it’s always been somewhat niche and has historically struggled to gain wide adoption – often due to the networking complexities, general advances in faster fixed line technologies and additional costs involved.

NOTE: The focus for this product is on areas that may have to wait years longer for Openreach’s new gigabit FTTP broadband network to arrive, which aims to reach 10 million UK premises by the end of March 2023 and then 25 million by the end of 2026.

In that sense, BT’s approach, which was first hinted at in their new charter (here), feels like an attempt to take the idea mainstream. The ISP claims that businesses could benefit from an average download speed boost of 20Mbps (median uplift), while average upload speeds can be uplifted to 10Mbps, but experiences may vary.

Better yet, the new product will be included “at no extra cost for new BT business broadband customers taking ADSL broadband plans“, while existing customers will be able to benefit when they renew their plan.

Chris Sims, BT’s MD for its SoHo unit, said:

“Using cutting-edge technology, we’re launching the first product in the UK to fuse fixed and mobile connections together to bring faster speeds to small firms which might be struggling on slower copper lines. While the Openreach full fibre network is expanding at pace, week on week, we understand the frustration of small firms who risk being stuck behind as they wait to hear when ultrafast full fibre broadband will come to them.

Fast, reliable broadband is vital for the smooth, day to day running of a business, so we’ve taken action today to boost speeds for business taking copper broadband – at no extra cost. Hybrid Speed Boost could revolutionise operations for small businesses that may currently be struggling with the required bandwidth to process large files, access cloud services or use HD video.”

We note that the Hybrid Speed Boost solution from BT is underpinned by MultiPath TCP (MPTCP) technology from Tessares, which is an enhancement to TCP, and enables the efficient, selective combining of existing network assets. “It takes TCP based traffic and is able to split the traffic over multiple paths (such as fixed and mobile networks) to deliver increased speeds to customers,” said BT.

One downside of MPTCP here is that it won’t boost other types of traffic, such as packets flowing via the common User Datagram Protocol (UDP). Various common examples come to mind here, such as Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and online gaming, but there are many more.

The other caveat is that you will of course need to be within reach of a strong indoor 4G signal from EE (performance on mobile networks can vary.. a lot) and customers will also need to be using BT’s latest Smart Hub 2 router.

Finally, BT is also introducing a new ‘no-frills’ fibre broadband package for cost-conscious small firms in fibre enabled areas. The Fibre 38 service is a new landline free fibre broadband package which uses Fibre-to-the-Cabinet (FTTC / VDSL2) technology.

The description states that “BT’s Fibre 38 package delivers guaranteed minimum speeds of up to 38/76/100Mbps..,” thus we assume that 100Mbps figure (FTTC’s has a maximum of 80Mbps) is including the impact of the new Hybrid Speed Boost, except the small print in BT’s announcement states that the boost is only available on their ADSL lines. Confusing.

UPDATE 3:23pm

BT has confirmed that the new Fibre 76 and 100Mbps products will also be available over FTTP, even though they only said FTTC in the PR.

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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.
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8 Responses
  1. Graham Turnbull says:

    Thanks for your coverage of this Mark. Although the underlying tech only benefits TCP traffic, it can therefore free up some of the DSL bandwidth for UDP based traffic so both types of traffic can benefit. ADSL is of course monstly limited to 800kbps which is a challenge for everyone. Moving upstream traffic to 4G can make a huge difference. I’ve got the product in my house and getting 30 Mbps down /30 Mbps up on ADSL. Works great!

  2. HR2Res says:

    So, if I have a landline with ADSL DL/UL speed of 1.5-2/0.6-0.7 Mbps and in my conservatory I could maybe get 6-8 Mbps DL (which is what I got by tethering my LG G6 to the laptop when with Virgin when they used EE, but was little better than my ADSL when tethering to my desktop PC upstairs in the office), would this system benefit me at all?

    I suspect not, but I was intrigued when I got the mailshot postcard about 2 or 3 weeks back.

    1. Lee says:

      With an external antenna, potentially yes. The BT FWA unit takes 2 SMA type connectors.

      First try EE outside. If it is better, than inside, it will likely be a lot better with an antenna high up.

      Whereabouts are you? There is funding that could cover the antenna installation in some areas.

    2. HR2Res says:

      @Lee Yes on the funding. I’m in Gigaclear descoped Herefordshire. Grant applied for a couple of months ago now. Awaiting man with a ladder and a signal tester. Was supposed to be likely in May, but that seems increasingly unlikely.

      It’s only been the aerial and router outlay cost that has stopped me going 4G so far, as based on phone signal dBm readings (about -108 to -113 dBm IIRC) standing as high on the roof as possible to get best signal on my LG G6 I’d be almost sure to lose much of any signal gain from an external aerial in what might be a 5-7 metre cable run from aerial to router. So, that has me erred on the side of possibly little real or no benefit for the couple of hundred pounds outlay.

      But BT are not pushing the external aerial with this package, and it would frankly be daft of me to go the BT route if an EE SIM is all I would need. The sooner the man with the ladder comes the better.

    3. blah says:

      I’d say this is a step up from the EE SIM idea – not only do you get “free” equipment but you’ll also get a real IP address if that’s of importance to you, and presumably if the broadband line is unlimited this also applies to the 4G side too. It also appears that it would be similar price or cheaper too – £30+VAT/mo?

      Bear in mind that the hub and modem are separate units (though they must be used together), so you could have the modem upstairs, near the ext antenna if need be

      and if Openreach FTTP ever materialises, you have a much easier upgrade path

  3. markg76 says:

    Will this be for SME only or will i get this on bt at home?

    1. HR2Res says:

      Fairly sure it’s just business broadband (at mo).

  4. Laurence 'GreenReaper' Parry says:

    I used to do a different form of this where I set a domain name to an IPv4 Virgin Media connection and IPv6 to BT VDSL2. The traffic split was roughly appropriate for the relative upstream bandwidths. Unfortunately nobody could use the full bandwidth at once but most wouldn’t have benefitted from it.

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