BT: 'Fibre' broadband can be as slow as 5Mbps

The company's wholesale division has created a new fibre-to-the-cabinet service that will have a minimum speed of 5Mbps, down from the previous minimum of 15Mbps

Customers who sign up for fibre-based broadband connectivity via BT's national rollout could get downloads speeds as low as 5Mbps, BT Wholesale has announced.

On Wednesday, the company's wholesale division told its ISP customers that they could resell a new fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) service with a minimum assured downstream speed of 5Mbps. Until now, the minimum speed for BT Wholesale's FTTC products was 15Mbps, which is still offered as the slowest speed in other products.

The move to a lower minimum threshold will make it possible for wholesale customers such as TalkTalk to sell more end users services that can be described as 'fibre'.

"Consumers and businesses that have previously been unable to order fibre broadband over BT's network because their line was unable to support the minimum speed of 15Mbps will now able to do so via their ISP," BT Wholesale said in a statement. It added that the move was a reaction to customer demand, but also said that none of BT Wholesale's customers have signed up to resell the new product.

"While these customers' lines will be unable to support the super-fast speeds of up to 40Mbps offered by BT's FTTC service, the option of a lower minimum assured speed for FTTC means that some customers may see an improvement in their broadband speeds compared with the existing speed they receive over the copper network," the company added.

BT Retail will not itself be selling services with a 5Mbps minimum speed under the Infinity brand, as such services would not reach the up-to-40Mbps speeds that Infinity offers, a BT spokeswoman told ZDNet UK.

Customers who subscribe to the slower product will count as 'fibre' customers, the spokeswoman added.

BT Wholesale's announcement came a day before the European Commission published statistics on rising average broadband speeds in Europe. According to the Commission, in July this year 29 percent of EU broadband lines had speeds of 10Mbps or more, up from 15 percent a year before. Annual growth in mobile broadband stands at 45 percent.

However, the Commission said in a statement, "there is still a long way to go before EU reaches its targets of giving every European access to basic broadband by 2013 and fast and ultra fast broadband by 2020 as outlined in the Digital Agenda for Europe".