While other ISPs are falling over themselves to offer higher speeds to customers, BT is taking a softly-softly approach to rolling out faster broadband.
According to Cameron Rejali, BT Wholesale's MD of products and strategy, the telco can't match the speed at which the local-loop unbundlers roll out faster broadband services because of the pressure of having to make sure BT's services reach across the whole country.
He said: "We want a large footprint. When we go to a speed, it's not just to a handful of exchanges — we want to enable every exchange."
However, despite ISPs' promises of faster broadband, the typical broadband user — who mostly browses the web and reads email — is often still left wondering why they should care whether their connection is 2Mbps or 12Mbps.
BT's Rejali said ISPs must now start persuading their users there's more to broadband then faster downloads for web pages: "On one level [high speed] is a nice headline but there's not a lot of differentiation," he said. "As we move to higher and higher speeds, we need to educate users and customers what those speeds mean."
Nevertheless, with some ISPs already looking at ADSL2+ — the next generation of broadband technology that can boost speeds to up to 24Mbps — BT is conducting its own trials into where to put its network investment.
Next-generation broadband technologies can promise connectivity of 50Mbps and above — a far cry from ADSL's top speed of 8Mbps to 10Mbps. And, unlike the current ADSL network that BT uses, next-gen broadband can enable any number of sexy — and lucrative — applications including video-on-demand and Web conferencing. Currently, the telco is looking at both VDSL and ADSL2+ technologies as potential upgrades for ADSL.
Rejali said that of the two, VDSL seems a likely winner. He said: "With ADSL2+, the technology is out there but there's the footprint challenge — to get 24Mbps, you need to be pretty close to the exchange. I believe VDSL has a better footprint."
Rejali added: "To go in one direction or another would be premature but looking at all the criteria, it makes me lean towards the greater footprint. I think the ultimate future is around VDSL."
He also revealed BT will be targeting network quality of service. "Businesses are more and more reliant on their broadband connection," he said. "Reliability just becomes that step-level more important."
The telco is also working on new tools for its wholesale customers to be launched in the new year, including better diagnostics as well as new services around content delivery, rights management and translating material from one medium to another.