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BT Wholesale changes mind on WBC speeds
Wednesday 16 April 2008 17:38:40 by Andrew Ferguson

Journalists were invited to the lair of BT Wholesale close to Gatwick Airport a few weeks ago for a briefing on the ADSL2+ product Wholesale Broadband Connect that is due to launch on a limited number of exchanges in the next few weeks.

PC Pro journalist Barry Collins who was at the briefing noted at the time that BT Wholesale estimated that some 50% of lines would connect at 12Mbps or better. It seems now that someone in BT Wholesale has gone back over the data from the lab tests and trials and issued revised estimates.

"I can confirm that the figure which states that 50% of UK households can expect to achieve speeds of 6.3-9.3Mb/sec is the latest lab trial data.

However, it is very difficult to predict the actual speeds that customers will receive once WBC [BT Wholesale Broadband Connect] is rolled out on a nationwide scale. "

BT Wholesale spokesperson on WBC speeds

The actual estimates BT Wholesale are currently suggesting are:

  • We would expect 10% of lines to get at worst 12.1Mbps or more (and more typically 16.3Mbps or more)
  • 25% of lines to get at worst 10.9Mbps or more (and more typically 14.7Mbps or more)
  • 50% of lines to get at worst 6.3Mbps or more (and more typically 9.3Mbps or more)
  • 75% of lines to get at worst 3.3Mbps or more (and more typically 5.0Mbps or more)

The estimates do not look that different to what we suggested back in 2006 for ADSL2+ which suggested some 42% of lines will run at 9.5Mbps or faster with ADSL2+. It should be pointed out that we are talking about connection speeds- the actual download speed from websites and speed testers will be less than these figures due to network protocol overheads, contention and general internet conditions. Hopefully, as was found with ADSL in the eight years it has been live in the UK, in many cases it will out perform expectations. For example, during the original roll-out, ADSL was only available on telephone lines shorter than 3.5km.

Let us hope that broadband providers take on board what is happening with regards to public/press reaction to the current 'up to 8Mbps' advertising and not market ADSL2+ with phrases like 'broadband speeds double or treble what you have now'. Of course, the LLU operators have been selling ADSL2+ for a while and some use 16Mbps as the ceiling for 'up to' descriptions. They also generally provide guidance to people on what speeds can be expected when ordering the service. Where a lot of the problems possibly stem from in the ADSL world is bulk upgrades when people just got sent a generic marketing-speak email promising a big speed improvement for no price rise or a small upgrade fee.


Posted by gdavidbeck over 9 years ago
I find this obsession with the speed of the DSL connection a bit strange given that, from personal experience, the reliability of the connection is just as important. I am in London 800 meters from the exchange and connect at 13mb but run reliably at 4mb or less. Sometimes even 4mb averages a dozen disconnects a day.
Posted by frankly_me over 9 years ago
I can only comment on my ISP, but... they are very fond of "generic market-speak emails", with wildly extravagant claims. I know - I fell for one of 'em!

As for "generally providing guidance" about what speeds can be expected - not my ISP. They just lie, and lie, and lie, and blame everybody else for their failures. Not for nothing are they regularly being voted "worst ISP" - maybe they are proud of it?

What I dream of is the day when the authorities will finally take ISP's such as mine to task, and we (the ones who pay), are at last in a position to make genuinely informed choices.
Posted by chrysalis over 9 years ago
all speeds here no mention of how much you can use the connection etc. to the press then?
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
"no mention of how much you can use the connection" that's a retail ISP issue, wholesale don't determine that.
Posted by ianwild over 9 years ago
At PlusNet we've been debating how to market the new ADSL2+ services. We can't agree yet, and we'd certainly welcome any suggestions from customers or other people!

Consumers seem to compare providers by advertised speed as much as anything else and that will make it hard for us to compete unless we can follow suit.

We're going to start a discussion on our community site about this too, as we'd love to find an answer that suits both sites of the debate.

Ian Wild PlusNet
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
"how to market the new ADSL2+ services"

the wholesale pricing has an end user element, an uncapped ADSL2+ element (currently free) and an elevated best effort (max premium) element. Have you considered having a base product range based on GB/month with these separate add-on elements for higher priority or higher spped. You could restrict availablilty of the latter to those likely to benefit from it, to avoid misselling claims.
Posted by ianwild over 9 years ago
We are certainly thinking about the product side and we are getting closer to having those options already. I think setting a clear expectation of likely speed during signup is also a good idea.

When I say marketing, what I really mean is how we describe what ADSL2+ is to the casual passer-bt, that lets them compare our products to a competitor. I really think there is a good opportunity for us to lose the whole "Up to 8Mb" and surrounding confusion, but I'm not sure how.

Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
Call the products Elephant and Gazelle ?
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
If you know the line stats as an ISP, it is possible to get an estimate for ADSL2+, and if done right you could forewarn those who appear to have a slow speed for their sync that things like ring wire/extension wiring is worth a look at.
Posted by martinsaunders over 9 years ago
Re: Andrew & line stats

In my experience you can get an idea but it isn't at all clear cut what speed you'll get when upgrading from ADSL to ADSL2+. You can get a pretty good idea upgrading from ADSL to ADSL2 as the same frequencies are used, but when you use the extra frequencies in 2+ there could be all sorts of interference that isn't known and limits your speed. Finally, even the ADSL2+ chipset used in the router can have a big effect on the sync rate. It really is a lottery..
Posted by ianwild over 9 years ago
The point is though, if I look at your line stats and say you will get 6Mb/s on ADSL2+, and another ISP then says you will get 18Mb/s if you sign up to their ADSL2+ product, who are you going to sign up for?

We can't afford to lose customers in that way - Not spending vast amount on brand awareness, it's hard enough getting people to come as far as looking at our website in the first place.
Posted by Pigmaster over 9 years ago
Use Andrew's ADSL and ADSL2+ Line Capability Estimator at
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
"who are you going to sign up for?"

depends how stupid you think I am :-)

Even OFCOM have spotted that things like support quaslity is perhaps a bigger issue than headline speed.

All the people who moan about "up to 8M" persistently fail to propose a solution.
Posted by isinix over 9 years ago
Quality rather than quantity.
Low contention rather than 50:1
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
50:1 is ancient history. If you have a 5M line from talk talk it's more like 200:1
Posted by martinsaunders over 9 years ago
Re: Ian & availability checker speeds

I agree it's a difficult balance, although any provider that is drastically over stating the predicted speeds at order time will eventually become unstuck once the line is installed. They may have gained a customer, but not a happy one, and unhappy customers = unprofitable ones.

Perhaps to help with this there could be a voluntary 'code of practice' around how to market residential broadband more fairly, thus encouraging providers to focus on other USPs such as reliability and service features?
Posted by herdwick over 9 years ago
perhaps the marketing should point out that the line speed to the exchange is going to be the same for all BT Wholesale based providers so there's no point in people obsessing about line checkers or indeed dodgy advice from cubicle farm salespeople as the line will do what its gonna do in any case.
Posted by andrew (Favicon staff member) over 9 years ago
Actually there can be differences...e.g. some IPStream providers have interleave turned on by default. Some may respond better to requests for decreases or increases in target noise margin that override the automated behaviour. Then don't forget one or two that sell it as up to 8Mbps but on some lines put people onto fixed 0.5/1 or 2Meg products.

The public will not normally know they've been switched to ADSL via LLU, and if that provider has say a 9dB target margin, when IPStream run at 6dB they can see differences.
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