BT Retail has operated a combination of traffic management and Fair Usage Policies on its BT Total and BT Infinity products for some time, and April 2011 will see the biggest relaxation seen in this area for a while. The retail arm of the BT Group has announced that the users who see their usage restricted at the 300GB a month mark will from April see no change in their download and upload speeds as they cross this mythical barrier. This is being achieved by the removal of the Fair Usage Policy that targeted individuals. Instead the firm will rely on traffic management that will restrict certain applications/protocols when the network is busy.
"As BT continues to invest in the network and network bandwidth we can now remove these restrictions and ensure the experience of the wider customer base. On completion there will be no individual user controls targeted at atypical users on our BT Total Broadband and BT Infinity products."Mayuresh Thavapalan, General Manager, Consumer Broadband BT Retail
It must be pointed out that users on the BT Total Option 1, BT Total Option 2 and BT Infinity Option 1 products will still see charges being applied for going over their limits, but apparently traffic will not be managed.
In terms of stats, BT Total has said that less than 0.5% (approximately 28,000) of its users were restricted at the 300GB a month level. To put that amount into perspective, it is the equivalent of downloading at 1Mbps constantly every hour of every day in a month.
This is an interesting move from BT Total, and is perhaps being carried out in the face of the competition from Sky who have heavily pushed the unlimited nature of their products. With the excess charging remaining in place for Option 1&2 users, one presumes BT Total is hoping to upsell the unlimited product to users who don't want to watch the usage meter, but who are still well under the 300GB mark each month.
What will be interesting in the next few weeks is to see the comments from users of the service and how the system wide traffic management affects users. Certainly this news from BT Total has been one of the more open statements on how they manage traffic across their network, there is still some way to go in terms of outlining which types of traffic are most affected by the management.
We suspect that the network investment that has enabled this change to take place is the gradual roll-out of the WBC network across the UK (the 21CN based WBC network is cheaper to run than the older IPStream system). How long this new usage freedom will last is unknown, nothing is forever in the Internet world. Unlimited deals are not new and every couple of months a new small provider appears with a deal that does the rounds and proves very popular, too popular in fact, and congestion and latency kill off the appeal of the product. Hopefully BT Retail has done its sums right and has the capacity so that speeds at peak times do not dip to annoyingly low levels.