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UK ISP Comments - Consumers Must Wait for 24Mbps Broadband
By: MarkJ - 25 April, 2008 (2:18 PM)

Consumers may be forced to wait until the middle of summer before some of the UK's ISPs are able to start officially rolling out packages based on BT Wholesale's new Wholesale Broadband Connect (WBC) 'up to' 24Mbps ADSL2+ technology.

BT has already released the first WBC (21CN) activation dates for 868 telephone exchanges (news) to May 2009 and 82 of those will be live at next weeks launch on Wednesday 30th April. It will take until 2012 to complete a total nationwide rollout.

Naturally we were interested to find out what the ISPs had planned and have spoken off-the-record with several prominent providers about what they envisage for next weeks launch. One common concern among almost all the providers was the installation lead time.

The ISPs tell us that they will only be able to make orders for the new service from next week and have been frustrated by installation lead times of between 60 and 65 WORKING days (this is for the ISP and not end-users). Speaking anonymously, one ISP states:

"We won't be launching then. Although BT Wholesale say they can take orders for 21CN pipes at the end of April, there is a 65 working day lead time. So, apart from the trialists, the earliest that we could have 21CN is early August. Even then, it is only available for a few exchanges."

It's a sentiment echoed by nearly everybody and means that consumer services probably won't surface until the latter half of this summer. The lack of coverage is also a problem for providers that have to spend a lot of money investing in new infrastructure, another ISP explained:

"There are not many exchanges that are currently enabled for ADSL2+ - the roll-out is expected to take two years. Therefore, the real sticking-point is that the new Host Links are only really attractive to ISP's if/when we can migrate our current IPstream ADSL traffic off of our Centrals and onto the new Host Links (paying for both concurrently is not attractive). BT reckon that they might be in a position to migrate IPstream onto WBMC towards the end of this year."

On the subject of pricing, most were adamant that consumers shouldn’t expect much of a change. Some ISPs are seeking to launch extra options, though most will either stick to their existing products, albeit offered at a higher speed, or ramp usage allowances ever so slightly.

Then there’s the question of speed, specifically how ISPs are planning to advertise such services, which remains a grey area. Though ADSL2+ is theoretically capable of delivering ‘up to’ 24Mbps, nobody will ever achieve that due to interference, line length and congestion. ISPs could not yet confirm their plans in this department but it seems probable that such services may be advertised similar to O2’s (Be), as being ‘up to’ 16 or 20Mbps.

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