It doesn't seem like it but yet another twelve months have passed as we look back to see how the last year has changed the broadband scene and what we expect to see from the industry in the next year. There have been a few key events in 2006 which have reshaped the industry.
Firstly, BT's launch of IPStream Max services offering "up to 8 meg" broadband services has changed the broadband world, not because it's a new speed record but because it brings faster broadband services to such a large proportion of the population. This is a significant boost to encourage adoption of broadband.
Carphone Warehouse's introduction of the free TalkTalk broadband service which started the 'free broadband' trend, not too dissimilar to what happened with 0845 'free' dial-up at one time changed the market and encourages bundling of services like mobile phones such as Orange's broadband offers and Sky's TV+Broadband solution.
In July, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled on Carphone Warehouse's TalkTalk advertising and the use of the wording "free forever" as well as issues affecting availability of the service. In September it also published a adjudication on the terminology used in advertising broadband services "up to" 8 meg following Bulldog's advertising campaigns (although it should be noted the term was widely used by others as well).
Ofcom has also set the path clear for a stronger regulatory framework in respect of broadband migrations from one service provider to another only a couple of weeks ago. From Valentine's day, service providers will not be able to put obstacles in the way of users moving to another supplier, even if the users have contractual obligations remaining.
There have been fewer high profile mergers and purchases this year although PlusNet's imminent acquisition by BT could not be left out. Another of note was the acquisition of Video Networks/HomeChoice (operating a TV service using LLU) by Tiscali who we suspect may venture on to the triple-play market soon.
The trend of unlimited / unmetered services attaching small print / 'catches' in the form of fair usage policies and usage based charging has continued over the last year, perhaps fuelled by the introduction of 'free' broadband services which can't sustain the level of utilisation that some users would want, as well as faster "up to 8 meg" services which would otherwise increase the 'p2p problem' exponentially.
TV over the Internet is likely to grow with offerings such as BT Vision now available to BT Retail customers, giving users Freeview as well as on demand Entertainment. We expect similar things to appear from Tiscali, and more content to become available such as the multicast TV trials by the BBC, as well as amateur-media prompted by sites such as YouTube and Google Video.
We have already seen the start of the process of BT rolling out it's 21st Century Network (21CN), a process that will continue in 2007 allowing a range of new services including ADSL2+ to be brought onto the market.
One company to watch out for next year is ntl:Telewest (or Virgin Media as they will soon be called) who is in a unique position of having their own platforms over which they could launch services other providers can only dream of as well as being able to deliver triple-play services. Whether they capitalise on these to advance their position we shall have to see. Cable operators have not in the past pushed the boundaries quickly enough to gain a competitive advantage.
Early in the year one of our best moderators, Martin Allberrey (known to forum users as 'Icarus') sadly died. We remember him as a loyal friend and colleague and his death has been a great loss to the site.
The beginning of December saw the re-launch of ADSLguide as thinkbroadband with a new back-end interface which we have all been waiting to complete for some time. The new site offers a far better user experience by being simpler to use and providing more relevant information including usage-based charging. We hope to further make using the site simpler whilst maintaining the detail for those users who want the flexibility of getting advanced information. Thanks to everyone who has provided feedback so far.
As usual, we would like to thank our staff and moderators who have worked through what have been turbulent times as well as the ISP staff, users and everyone else who has helped us to continue providing the information.
Seb & John
Co-Founders, ADSLguide / thinkbroadband.com
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