Skip Navigation

BT boost broadband speeds to its consumer and business customers
Wednesday 03 June 2009 16:32:28 by John Hunt

BT have announced today that they will be rolling out faster speeds to their consumer and business broadband customers this summer, utilizing BT's 21CN to give download speeds of up to 20Mbps. Upload speeds are also set to increase, giving users upto 1Mbps, which will allow them to submit content online, such as uploading videos or photos much more quickly. The news will give a welcome boost to consumers' broadband speeds without denting the wallet as the upgrades will be provided for free. Users who already have a fast line will benefit the most from the speed upgrades, and it's possible that some could actually be slower. It is estimated that only 25% of telephone lines can connect at a line speed of 6.5Mbps and above, and only these 25% may see speeds over 11Mbps. Only those that live very close to the telephone exchange will actually get broadband speeds near 20Mbps.

Not everyone will be able to get the faster speeds of course, as only those on a 21CN enabled exchange can benefit from the new ADSL2+ technology. Nearly 40% of UK business and consumers are covered (549 exchanges), and this is set to increase to 55% by 2010. One gotcha, is that existing customers who wish to upgrade will be asked to sign a new contract. Business customers can sign up now, whilst consumers will have to wait for a bit later in the summer (no exact date has as yet been announced).

Another announcement with this is that BT will be giving away the 'BT Broadband Accelerator', another name for the BT I-Plate, for free (£2.50 P&P) to customers who it believes performance can be improved. The I-Plate is a simple device that plugs in to the telephone socket which helps improve broadband speeds due to poor quality telephone wiring. Thinkbroadband produced a video guide earlier this year which shows how you can fit an I-Plate to your telephone socket to help consumers through the process, and to aid them get better broadband speeds.

How much of an improvement will the speeds updates actually bring?
In the last few days BT have been accused of artificially reducing the speed of their broadband customers through throttling or traffic management. Customers on BT's Option 1 broadband will find that between 5pm and midnight, their speeds for watching streaming video such as BBC iPlayer and Youtube are reduced back to under 1Mbps. This is detailed in the BT Total Broadband Fair Usage Policy.

We do not impose any restrictions that affect the viewing quality of services such as BBC iPlayer or Catch Up on or, as these stream at up to 800Kbps. However, we do limit the speed of all video streaming to 896Kbps on our Option 1 product, during peak times only, which is between 5pm - midnight every day.

Quote from BT Fair Usage Policy

Sources at the BBC said that their data showed that speeds for BT's iPlayer users average around 700Kbps at these peak times, which means that users are reduced to the lowest quality streaming for their iPlayer service. Currently the iPlayer has three different speeds which give different quality video- 500Kbps, 800Kbps and 1.5Mbps. There is also a 3.2Mbps high-definition service.

BT are of course by no means alone when it comes to traffic management- it can be very useful to ensure a few users don't make broadband unusable for everyone. Virgin Media also operate a similar policy on their broadband service, although they are a bit more generous with how much they throttle by. Their 2Mbps, Broadband M product is reduced to 1Mbps during peak times if you go over their download trigger level, however 2Mbps users are currently being migrated to a faster 10Mbps service which is throttle down to 2.5Mbps. Users that are interested in seeing how fast they can stream video can use our Broadband Meter to monitor speeds in real time.

Any increase in speeds such as these being introduced by BT are welcomed, however the main benefit of these is to streaming video services which can make good use of faster speeds to bring higher quality video. If adjustments are not made to the traffic management policies, many users may find no benefit at all to having a faster line when using it at peak times.


Posted by rian over 8 years ago
Will it be too late while O2 and other LLU providers had been rolling out for long time?
Posted by EnglishRob over 8 years ago
The problem is O2 and other LLU providers seem to cherry pick exchanges that suit them. O2 have done pretty much all the exchanges in the Torbay area except the exchange I am on. In the end I got fed up and went over to Virgin 20 Meg. I also have BT Broadband too and although I sync at 7 Meg I rarely get this sort of speed (I'm on BT Total Broadband Option 3). I think BT should wait until they can offer up to 20 Meg to ALL their customers before going on about how great they are offering free upgrades to 20 Meg.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
LOL Wow so they are bringing us 5+ year old tech.

AS for their fair use.....
Option 1 10GB
Option 2 20GB
Option 3 Unlimited*
* = Subject to Network Management (Or in English if you dare watch iplayer or similar we will cripple your speed, 5pm-midnight every day). LOL BT the 21st century provider LOL..... Use your 10gig at 20Mb in under 15mins LOL
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
opps missed the zero... 150mins
Posted by GMAN99 over 8 years ago
Same 5+ year old tech your beloved LLU ISP's are rolling out? Yep
Posted by Mokey over 8 years ago
Appreciate the article but please do abit more research read your own forums plz.

All options 1 2 and 3 all suffer Throttle 128Kb/s peak time no way do we get 800kbs suggested

FUP Quote is also lies.

Fact one person may say they can use p2p streams whatever full speed during peak times to me suggests someone on their exchange Works or knows someone that works for BT and they dont want their paticular exchange throttled and have the power to get it sorted so they arnt and affected hense some people say theres nothing wrong.

Lets get some truth instead of BT PR Spin.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
Amusingly that 1.3Mbit upstream (that's what it actually is at sync rate) is faster than anything Virgin Media have apart from their 50Mbit tier. Also faster than various LLU ISPs among them Sky and UKOnline.
Posted by Dixinormous over 8 years ago
Mokey - BT say their shaping is dependent on bandwidth demand so if one of the interconnects is running heavy while another isn't one will see shaping while the other will not.
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
EnglishRob - what is the point of waiting until all exchanges are upgraded - how does that help anyone?

Mokey - your theory about knowing someone is highly unlikely!
Posted by GMAN99 over 8 years ago
So that's a real service then? "Hi my name is Bill I've a friend at BT who says you can turn off shaping at my exchange, can you do it?" - Consider it done.

That's really funny. As for FUP aren't they all lies and left to interpretation? Apart from Sky's top package of course.
Posted by terrybyatt over 8 years ago
This may one may open a hornets nest, but here goes....
At the end of the day BT own and service the telephone lines. Ask yourself the question... What vans do I see working on the phone lines? Answer BT.
If you were in charge of BT which customers would you give the best future long term service.
I rest my case!
Posted by GMAN99 over 8 years ago
What case?
Posted by Somerset over 8 years ago
Which customers? Those that work for Ofcom!
Posted by Capn over 8 years ago
Been trialing 21CN for a month now. Increased speeds from 6.5-13mbps down and 40-105kbps up. Haven't heard of many getting full speed on it. Apparently LLU operators can provide higher speeds as their equipment is less fussy about errors.
Also 21CN doesn't use Seamless Rate Adaption so it can take weeks for the line to stabilise, ie not resyncing everyday.
Posted by cyberdoyle over 8 years ago
As ever, empty promises from our incumbent, and even more people will fall off the end of the line. Only those near the exchanges will benefit, but those at the end will pay for 'up to 20meg' just the same. wringing even more revenue from the legacy phone lines, an obsolete network trying to deliver next gen access. It is a shambles, already everyone is realising this, and pressure must be put on the suits to stop messing about and start building next gen network asap.
Posted by danman7_200 over 8 years ago
Capn, 6.5Mb to 13mb is a huge increase. If you synced at 13Mb on ADSL2+ you should of synced at 8128Kbps on ADSL. If you are using the i-plate, I would guess that may have had alot to do with the big increase.

I'm guessing you made a slight typo with 40kbps as its should be 40KB/s.I normally let that error pass, but you were using Mega bits per second, and then Kilo bytes per second which added to the confusion.
Posted by zyborg47 over 8 years ago
I don't think I will bother, I am having enough problems as it is. I am certainly not going to renew a contract so I can have maybe another Mbit of sync speed and that is a big maybe.
Posted by timmay over 8 years ago
Only 549 exchanges enabled compared to 1100+ that have either Sky, O2 or both and 1700+ with TalkTalk. Hardly impressive BT infact not even a drop in the ocean as all 21CN exchanges will likely already have a LLU operator so already have the option of 16~20Mbps broadband. Add to this that it will have little to no impact for people already on slow connections due to line quality.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"Same 5+ year old tech your beloved LLU ISP's are rolling out? Yep"

LOL Which LLU ISP is only just rolling out ADSL2+??? Do you have a Time machine or something? Please come back and join us in the present day.
Posted by CARPETBURN over 8 years ago
quote"Only 549 exchanges enabled compared to 1100+ that have either Sky, O2 or both and 1700+ with TalkTalk. Hardly impressive BT infact not even a drop in the ocean as all 21CN exchanges will likely already have a LLU operator so already have the option of 16~20Mbps broadband. Add to this that it will have little to no impact for people already on slow connections due to line quality."

Well said this man, intelligence at last that lives in the year 2009
Posted by GMAN99 over 8 years ago
CB you were slagging the tech used, the same tech used by LLU's now and that LLU's are still rolling out? Are you saying LLU's are finished rolling out and are now using new tech better than 2+ or both? I'm sorry your inane ramblings are often hard to decipher.
Posted by GMAN99 over 8 years ago
As usual a load of fuss over nothing. The only people narked by this can only be with another ISP on LLU or can't get it, if so why are you ranting? For existing BT customers that are one of the exchanges its a win win, even slower speeds should see an increase (albeit not that great) and all that is needed is a renew of contract. If they were going to stay its a bonus if they were going to another ISP who cares about the upgrade anyway? There isn't even a list of exchanges so how you all know LLU is present at them is beyond me
Posted by GMAN99 over 8 years ago
Everyone knew they were going to rollout ADSL2+ but boo anyway its rubbish!

Everyone knew the were going to rollout VDSL2+ but boo anyway its not fast enough!

Maybe they should just can any future upgrades and let other ISP's build their own networks and POP's or maybe the government should lean on Virgin to make them drastically expand their network to cover every house in the UK to supply super fast broadband?

Posted by mishminx over 8 years ago
Last to innovate, first to charge. The joys of being the incumbent. Its good news for anyone lucky enough to be on a 21c enabled exchange and also highlights the necessity of competition to innovate.
Posted by GMAN99 over 8 years ago
Exactly.. the more competition the better as the punter always win's, there's nothing I'd like more than a broadband war but there's a lack of players and and a lack of players with equal coverage
Posted by richlion over 8 years ago
I am on Broadband Option 3 and my speeds are 2.7Mbs at 9AM, after 12PM speeds are down to 200kbs, even 70kbs. Outrageous, because I should have stayed with Option 1. One thing BT should admit that people with Option 3 may have the right to feel simply robbed! Why pay £24 monthly if BT cannot even gurantee basic speeds? It would be nice to see a follow up on this subject.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
GMAN99 to be fair to the LLU providers they not just rolling it now they did it years ago and aren't calling it 21CN tech.
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
GMAN99 unfortenatly the punter does not always win in a heavily competed arena, it will usually promote lower prices but for this to be achieved cut backs get made hence the all too common abused FUP's and traffic shaping. Looking around the world it does appear those telcos with monopoly's are the ones that are more readily investing in fibre. 20mbit at under £15 a month when it isnt subisidised by anything else isnt a good thing.
Posted by GMAN99 over 8 years ago
Yeah but the 21CN tag is a moot point really they don't and didn't need the 21CN core network to deliver ADSL2+ It makes you wonder why they didn't do it sooner though I wonder if the Ofcom shackles were on to let other ISP's get a head start? Saying that BT as an ISP will always struggle to beat the competition on price maybe that's why they didn't make a big thing about it
Posted by ccsnet over 8 years ago
GMAN99 - Can I suggest you give BT a call and see if your been throttled. I DLed a fair bit which was odd for me and they placed the restriction on my p2p traffic ( I'm on Option 3 too ). Its worth noting the point this came in was LOW.... the reason its not published is because it varies exchange to exchange / day to day so its hit and miss as to what your level is. They also send a mail to your yahoo address they give you and if like me your not using it you dont get a letter through even.
Posted by ccsnet over 8 years ago
Its supposed to be just P2P traffic but frankley it was my whole service as it was that bad I thought I had a fault yet 2hrs after the restriction was off normal surfing was back to normal.

Re ADSL2+ - Sorry I think they have been slow here how ever it also depends on the budget they have been working on and also what the quality standards are - in this case I guess high.

Finally in general ADSL sync speed is not the be all - its the actual thru put you get and some the adverts I think dont put that accross as joe bloggs sees the big and simple numbers.....

Posted by GMAN99 over 8 years ago
@ccsnet, Are you sure you meant me? I'm not being throttled no. I've not downloaded on mass for a while now but when I have I've never been shaped/throttled I've always got the max out of the connection, but then I don't use p2p
Posted by AndrueC over 8 years ago
ADSL2+ isn't 21CN. I don't think BT ever claimed it was. 21CN is about updating their core network not the last mile. It's just that as part of that work they are replacing DSLAMs with MSANs and since this is modern kit it supports ADSL2. BT have just chosen to make that technology available.

IOW:ADSL2 from BT is just a side effect of their 21CN work. Now of course marketing departments see an opportunity to shout about it but that's a different part of BT.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Oh, and to the article: Option *1*. If you're looking to watch a lot of video? You may want to consider Option 2 or 3...
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
andrueC I dont know if BT have ever claimed it themselves but certianly some isps reselling the service are claiming it to be 21CN technology.
Posted by gr277 over 8 years ago
What a load of rubbish, designed to deflect criticism from BTs inability to meet its current obligations. Instead of "spinning faster speeds", how about making sure that customers can get the current *UP* to 8Mb speeds? My whole area gets 1.2Mb and we are 1.75Km from the exchange. As far as OFCON is concerned, I won't bother to make any comments!!
Posted by terrygoodfellow over 8 years ago
My understanding is speed depends on the slowest link in the chain ie cable, PC, providers etc. I swapped provider 'cos it was being throttled back - only threat of court action opened it up temporarily. 200m up road I'd be on different exchange and 4x current speed
Posted by leshewitt over 8 years ago
I don't understand this.

I'm a happy TalkTalk customer (yes we do exist!) on LLU, running at 5.6mbps at about 4km from the exchange. As far as I know, there's no point my signing for the TalkTalk "Turbo Boost" (up to 24mb I believe) as I wouldn't go any faster. I already get upload of 1mbps.

If I moved to BT, am I likely to see any speed increase at all with this 21CN or am I just limited by the laws of physics, captain?
Posted by ar5eh0le over 8 years ago
Great! I can have a free iplate. Except BT want £100 to fit an NTE5.Not bad as I have been paying line rental for over 30 years!
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
leshewitt - Not until they roll out FTTC in your area.
Posted by Marvin1 over 8 years ago
didn't ofcom recently recently rule about advertising "upto" figures?
saying that isp's ought to show what users can reasonably expect to get.
does that apply to the time when most user will want to use their broadband?
or some theoretical time when most users will be asleep or at work?
Posted by chrysalis over 8 years ago
marvin1 ofcom arent that strict unfortenatly, they allow the up to speeds to be advertisid on the basis the isp tells the user at some point during the order their specific estimated speed. There is also no protection for an isp over estimating speeds.
Posted by Dawn_Falcon over 8 years ago
Otherwise no ISP would be allowed to mention any speeds anywhere in their advertising literature, chrysalis. And that rapidly becomes absurd.

And "protection"? Before you pay, you get their estimate. IME, by far the two most common cause of lower than estimated speeds are bad end-user hardware or wiring. Not ISP issues!
Posted by Pompey-Mike over 7 years ago
I'm on BT Total Broadband Option 1, speeds up to 8Mbps were promised. My house phone wiring is nearly 30 years old and typically I was getting only 2.4 Mbps for downloads. Last week I fitted the free BT BB accelerator (formerly known as I-plate) and now speeds are >= 6Mbps a great improvement. Uploads still ~0.4 Mbps
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.