BT finally gets on board with 1Mbps broadband

Better late than never, Britain's largest ADSL provider is offering new and existing customers a faster broadband product

BT Retail has unveiled details of a 1Mbps broadband package, several months after rival Internet service providers announced similar plans.

From 19 January, users will be able to pay £38 per month for a 1Mbps broadband connection from BT Broadband, or £41 per month from BT Yahoo if they also want a range of Internet services such as spam filters and a firewall.

Announcing the launch, BT Retail chief executive Pierre Danon said the 1Mbps product would give users a better broadband experience than BT's existing 512Kbps services.

"The arrival of 1Mb broadband from BT simply makes the broadband experience even better -- faster surfing, higher quality streamed audio, smoother videos and online gaming. These benefits will be welcomed by all those who see broadband becoming a central part of their home entertainment set-up. It also takes BT one step nearer to achieving its target of five million broadband connections by 2006," said Danon in a statement.

Other ISPs, though, have been rather more nimble in announcing their own 1Mbps services. AOL UK made the commitment at the start of December 2003, while Freedom2Surf and Pipex were even quicker.

Perhaps in an attempt to make up ground, BT Retail is offering price savings to customers who move quickly to get a 1Mbps link. Any new BT Broadband or BT Yahoo customers who signs up online before the end of March 2004 will get a free modem and connection -- a saving of £70.

Although this 1Mbps service could let users download date from the Internet twice as fast as with a 512Kbps link, they may not be allowed to download twice as much of it.

BT Retail operates an informal download capping system on its broadband service, and says customers shouldn't download more than one gigabyte of data per day. The company claims that this limit is suitable for a "mass-market consumer broadband" product -- pointing out that a user would have to download over 200 music tracks per day, for example, to go over the limit.

However, applications such as high-quality video streams can gobble bandwidth -- so some users should be cautious.

NTL, which also has a 1GB per day cap, recently insisted that the limit should not stop consumers from getting full enjoyment from their broadband connection.