AOL France limits unmetered

AOL France cannot cope. Is this a warning for the UK?

AOL France has restricted the heaviest users of its unmetered package to limited peak rate session times to protect its network which is struggling to cope with demand.

French subscribers to the 99 franc (around £10) package offering unlimited Internet access are now having their surf-time capped during peak hours. When registered users log on, a pop-up screen warns them of the congestion, and an alarm bell sounds ten minutes before they are disconnected.

AOL France is insisting that this is a temporary measure in order to increase its network facility. "We will lift this measure as soon as we can. We are currently investing £600m in the expansion of our network, and are in the process of adding 60,000 more modems that will make our network capacity four times as big," said an AOL France spokesperson.

She claimed that the session modulation is only going to affect three percent of its heaviest customers, with users being able to reconnect as many times as they like.

The network struggles come a week after AOL's rollout of its UK unmetered service. A spokesman at AOL UK said: "There's a world of difference between the French and the UK unmetered offering. The unmetered offering in France was intended to make a regulatory and consumer point."

The UK unmetered package is the first to be based on BT's Friaco (Flat Rate Internet Access Call Origination) which charges a fixed fee to ISPs, enabling AOL to offer a flat rate service based on a sustainable model. AOL's spokesman is confident that the UK was the best place to begin a regulatory battle.

"The UK has the most liberal telecoms market in Europe. France Telecom is a lot more dominant than BT, and so there was a clear need for AOL to demonstrate that French customers wanted a US style flat rated service," he argued.

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