Bulldog Communications are the latest ISP to target the great mass of dial-up users who have not converted to a broadband connection yet. Their product is different to a number of the other new products released this week. PrimeTime 500 will run at speeds upto 0.5Mbps downstream during evenings (6pm-8am), all weekend and Public Holidays, but at other times it will run at upto 0.25Mbps. The upstream speed remains a constant 0.25Mbps. The other big difference compared to BT Broadband Basic is that the montly limit is 2GB per month.
The product has an introductory price of £17.99 (inc VAT), which is only marginally less than some of its competitors products that offer no monthly limit or time based throttling. The contract term is a lengthy 12 months, but at least users get a free modem or the 13th month free, and thus the only initial outlay is the activation fee of £58.75.
Unlike BT Broadband Basic though, as the Bulldog service is based around the wholesale Datastream product range it is currently only available across London, the South East and major city centres including Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Cambridge, potentially reaching some 6.8 million homes.
The competition is growing in the sub £20 arena now, and we must stress that people should not rely on comparison tables providers produce, these can hide things like 50p per minute premimum support lines (e.g. BT Broadband Basic), but to do some careful research to determine the real costs. For example with the bandwidth limited products determine what are the exact costs for exceeding the monthly limit.
Are all these new products innovative? Well bandwidth/charging based models have existed around the world for years on broadband, and even the UK has had a few providers doing this. The difference is that the larger ISPs are in on the game now - the ones with the BIG advertising budgets. To produce something that will be accepted as innovative will take a lot more work. Perhaps the key to getting the mass of dial-up users to switch to broadband is to finally offer something they can do on broadband that they cannot on dial-up. Things like on-line gaming do account for a lot of people switching to broadband, but on-line gaming is nowhere near as popular in the UK as say South Korea.
The one certain fact is that the UK broadband market appears to be on the verge of large changes during 2004.
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