By: MarkJ - 26 May, 2010 (5:35 AM)
o2 logoBroadband ISP O2 UK has attempted to clarify the level of usage restrictions and Traffic Management imposed upon customers of their BTWholesale based Home Access package. The package, which is supposed to share the same "unlimited downloads" as its better performing non-BT unbundled ( LLU ) options (e.g. Standard, Premium and Pro), now suggests that its customers should aim to use "less than 10GB [GigaBytes] per month".

The move follows concern over the providers issuance of warning letters to those it deems to be among the "heaviest users" on its Home Broadband Access service. Related customers are warned that they could face disconnection unless their usage is reduced and indeed an unknown number have already been cut-off.

o2_unlimited_broadband.gif

This policy is by no means new and O2 has been "contacting less than 10% of [its] heaviest users" since the end of March this year. The practice appears to form part of wider efforts to improve the performance of its Home Access package, which should not be confused with O2's otherwise strong and less restrictive unbundled options.

O2 Statement from March 26th 2010

As some of you have been discussing, we’ve started to disconnect some of the very highest usage customers whose download patterns have detrimentally affected other customers’ experience, even after we have requested them to reduce their usage and explained the effect it’s having. We will continue this in order to improve the experience for the majority of the customers on the service.

We are also making the service run more efficiently by updating the hardware and software that runs the Access service. This will improve the prioritisation of the real-time activity, such as streaming, over less time-sensitive activities such as P2P.

However since that process began there have been growing calls from customers for O2 to clarify precisely what "unlimited downloads" actually mean, with respect to the Home Access package. Recently one customer, who posted on O2's Support Forum, got an unofficial answer.

An O2 Customer Services rep said:

"I’d like to confirm that there is no set amount of usage that will result in a warning email from us. We constantly monitor the network and those customers whose usage has a detrimental effect on the experience of others, will be contacted. We’re contacting less than 10% of our heaviest users at the moment and you fell into this top tier. The majority use less than 10GB and at present if you use less than 40GB, you wouldn’t hear from us."

The implication appears to be that O2 Home Access will view anybody who uses over 40GB within any given month as being a problem for their service. However a new update to O2's Traffic Management help pages, as spotted by the BeUsergroup, suggests that customers should actually try to use a lot less than the 40GB suggested above.
How much should I cut my broadband use?

Most O2 customers use less than 10GB a month. Aim for that and you’ll be okay.

Your product is unlimited, so why are you telling me to use less?

There aren't any usage limits on any of our O2 Home Broadband packages. That means you can download and upload as much as you like each month, within reason.

Our network's been designed to cope with people downloading large files (like music or films) and watching video online. But if you're using the service excessively – like continually downloading large files at peak times – then we do reserve the right to warn you to lower your usage. In exceptional circumstances, we can even terminate your account.

This is because excessive use by a few people can reduce the speed that other customers in the same area can get. We just want to provide everyone with an excellent level of service.
So there you have it, there "aren't any usage limits", you can even "download and upload as much as you like each month" so long as it is "within reason" (i.e. aim for 10GB and you'll be fine). O2 no doubt hopes that this should be nice and clear for everybody.

The news couldn't really come at a worse time, especially after the launch of their new high profile 'Niggles and Narks' TV, press and online advertising campaign (here). The campaign seeks to raise awareness about the woeful broadband performance of O2's competitors, while simultaneously promoting their own service as better.

It is of course important to again reiterate the fact that this article relates entirely to the O2 Home Access package and not their more popular, more affordable and generally better performing unbundled solutions.
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