BT has been criticised by customers and the telecoms industry after it revealed that it won't start delivering superfast broadband, known as ADSL2+, until next year.
ADSL2+ will give users download speeds of up to 24Mbps. BT said on Monday that that services will not commence until late 2007 in some areas and will not be nationwide until 2011.
Other operators, including Be, which is owned by O2, and Easynet, which Sky acquired a year ago, have already rolled out ADSL2+ services, leaving BT at least two years behind. But those operators only offer ADSL2+ services in the larger cities, leaving the rest of the country with broadband speeds of no more than 8Mbps.
PlusNet, a large Sheffield-based ISP which resells BT's wholesale services, is frustrated by the delays to ADSL2+. "Through conversations with our customers and our user group, we know the demand for higher speeds is there," Neil Armstrong, PlusNet's product development director, told ZDNet UK. "It has always been on our roadmap to trial ADSL2+."
Armstrong took issue with BT's assertions that its delays had the agreement of ISPs. "It's frustrating that BT Wholesale can't match the timescale of the LLU providers," he said, adding that PlusNet may turn to Tiscali, another wholesale service provider, if BT can't provide what it needs.
BT has explained that ADSL2+'s deployment is tied to the rollout of its 21st Century Network (21CN), which has been hit by delays and now won't be completed until 2011.
Broadband customers are also unhappy with the ADSL2+ timescale. One told ZDNet UK, "When we hear of [NTL's] trials of 50Mbps services taking place elsewhere and we are stuck on 8Mbps max, it's a bit annoying to find that hopes of seeing faster speeds are delayed."
Another wrote, "My exchange is way down the list [for 21CN rollout], so the whole 21CN thing is just pie in the sky for the time being for me."
Andrew Ferguson from broadband industry watchers ADSLguide.org.uk said BT could have been quicker. He said: "Be, Easynet et al have the advantage of [much] lower volumes support-wise, [but] there is nothing stopping BT from deploying ADSL2+ now."
But Ferguson added that there might not be much demand for ADSL2+ from ISPs, because of the higher cost they would have to pay BT for the extra bandwidth such services would consume.
Ferguson also expressed some doubt over whether BT could cope with such bandwidth demands before 21CN was installed. He said: "One issue I've not raised, as I've less proof of it, is that the current BT backhaul networks may not scale well to the sort of speeds ADSL2+ will offer, hence why it's only likely to be offered once the new IP backhaul systems are in place.
"Also, since the new IP network is cheaper to run, the costs to service providers can lower to the point where it becomes a product they will buy. Overall yes, BT is slow on ADSL2+, but it has some reasonable reasons."