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PlusNet makes u-turn on its fair usage policy
Thursday 21 April 2005 14:18:00 by Andrew Ferguson

It seems the UK broadband market is ever changing, people were getting worried the UK would see all service providers having fairly tight usage limits. Though with last weeks announcement of a 0.5Mbps service for £9.99 by UK Online, it was only a matter of time before competitors did something. The fair usage policy that was proposed by PlusNet was more complex than most, since it took a couple of months of high usage for it to kick in. It would seem that PlusNet has decided to remove this system, and now just rely on contention and monitoring of people who try to download the whole Internet every minute of the day, every day of the year.

PlusNet thankfully has published an FAQ that can be read at This should cover most of the questions PlusNet users will have. In short the Premier range will be dropping its 30GB/50GB etc tiers and replacing them, what with is not totally clear, but news on this is expected soon.

So how are PlusNet going to manage the issue of people abusing what has always been a contended resource, since the whole point of the Fair Usage Policy was to manage the amount the bandwidth used, particularly at peak times. Well the new service is to be contended at 30:1, how this compares to the existing PlusNet services is unclear, since they have not published any contention ratios before, other than the generic ones BT Wholesale quote.

Some will ask, how can PlusNet sell a 30:1 contended service, when the baseline product is actually sold at approximately 50:1 as documented on the BT Sinet website. While generally BT Wholesale does not contend users at right up to 50:1 at the exchange end of things. This does not mean that BT Wholesale may not in the future introduce more contention, for example when an exchange sees very high demand. One suspects that this move by PlusNet may start to see other providers advertising the contention ratio they aim for in the network segments they control, e.g. the population of the BT Central pipes. Whether the PlusNet service is going to perform differently to the other BT IPStream Home services only time will tell.

This move by PlusNet is welcome since it means the vast majority of consumers with the Premier product can stop worrying about their usage, only those with extremely high usage are going to be contacted by PlusNet. Clouding the market with the detail of a 30:1 contention ratio, may help sales figures, but if performance ever drops below what an incoming user got from their previous '50:1' provider, one can envisage a degree of discontent from users.


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