BT to lift limits on 'unlimited' broadband

BT to lift limits on 'unlimited' broadband

Summary: The telco will allow unlimited use on four of its broadband packages, which it has been describing as 'unlimited' even though they carried a 300GB 'fair use' cap

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BT plans to remove usage limits on four of its broadband packages, which it has been advertising as 'unlimited' even though they are capped.

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BT is to allow unlimited use on four of its broadband packages, which it has been describing as 'unlimited' even though they carried a 300GB 'fair use' cap. Photo credit: ell brown on Flickr

The move on Wednesday comes as advertising watchdogs examine the use of the word 'unlimited' in broadband advertising. Almost all providers put 'fair use' caps on such packages, but do not explicitly advertise the limits.

This has been the case with the 300GB monthly cap on BT's Total Broadband Option 3 and Infinity Option 2 domestic packages, and its Office Unlimited and Advance Support business packages. The 300GB limits on those plans will be removed from April, which should allow users to actually get unlimited downloads.

However, the packages will still be subject to traffic management "when the network is busy", BT said in its announcement. This throttles the bandwidth available to certain applications and protocols, such as peer-to-peer (P2P).

By contrast, "traffic will not be managed" on the company's cheaper, limited packages, a BT spokesman said on Thursday. However, on Friday a BT spokeswoman contacted ZDNet UK to clear up what she said was "some confusion", stating that "all our products have P2P traffic management in the peak hours".

BT rejected suggestions that the move is related to the ongoing investigation into the way broadband providers advertise limited packages as 'unlimited'. The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) are conducting the inquiry, at the request of the industry's self-regulation body, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

"We're able to do this because we can manage the network better now," BT's spokesman said on Thursday. "It gives us a competitive advantage as well."

It was unlimited because 99.5 percent of users never used more than 300GB.

– BT spokesman

Asked why BT had been advertising limited packages as 'unlimited', the spokesman noted that less than 0.5 percent of the company's customer base actually goes over the 300GB-a-month cap.

"It was unlimited because 99.5 percent of users never used more than 300GB," he said.

The use of the word 'unlimited' is not the only issue related to broadband advertising irking advertising watchdogs at the moment. On 2 March, Ofcom called for telcos to stop advertising their products as offering 'up to' theoretical maximum speeds. The regulator said companies should quote instead the average speeds that their customers can realistically attain.


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Topics: Broadband, Networking

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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  • It’s unsurprising that despite limits being lifted on these ‘unlimited’ broadband packages they will still be subject to traffic management. It’s a shame that major UK ISPs are having to throttle bandwidth, but today, we have gaming and video content to stream, voice conversations, billions of pounds worth of e-commerce traffic, not to mention financial systems which require micro- if not nano-second responses.

    The question is whether we will see a UK body – in the same way as we have Nominet to administrate web domain names – to oversee speeds and prioritisation. A neutral eye and a neutral hand on net neutrality could go a long way to support the future and development of how information moves across the internet.
    F5 Networks