All aboard the 2Mbps boat at Virgin
Providers all seem to be jumping on the boat with regards to the free reqrades to 2Mbps. Virgin is the latest, and are now offering their Plan One with a 20GB usage allowance for £24.99 a month. Existing Plan One users may get a free upgrade to 2Mbps, whether you do or not depends largely on the capabilities of your telephone line. A visit to www.bt.com/broadband (the BT Wholesale online checker), will allow you to check what BT believe your telephone line is capable of. It is believed that around 80% of UK telephone lines should support a 2Mbps service.
With the fanfare from some providers of late you would think 2Mbps was something new - but far from it. December 2002 saw Bulldog offering a 2Mbps service for £39.99, followed by various other BT Datastream based services. When BT Wholesale finally launched its IPStream Home 2000 product in February 2005, all IPStream based providers had it available as an option. Another misconception that has arisen from the free upgrades currently offered, is that a lot of exchanges are NOT 2Mbps enabled. This is a fallacy, when a standard build ADSL exchange is enabled, it will be ready for 2Mbps services. The reason for the upgrades associated with the free offers, is that since a high proportion of users on an existing exchange may be jumping from 0.5Mbps to 2Mbps, BT Wholesale need to re-jig the backhaul from the exchange to cope with an en-masse increase. The moral there is that if you want 2Mbps now, you can often for a fee of around £11 to £15 get your ISP to upgrade your line ahead of the bulk upgrades.
There is one set of exchanges that are an exception to these upgrades, and these are ones that are only set-up to provide 0.5Mbps services. These are usually small rural exchanges, and total only around 200 out of the 5500 exchanges in the UK. The system used is Exchange Activate, and you can tell if you are connected to one of these exchanges if the following message is displayed when you visit www.bt.com/broadband and check your telephone number. The key text is "Your exchange will have 512Kbps ADSL broadband service".