BT's 8Mbps broadband out now?

BT's much-anticipated 8Mbps ADSL service has begun to roll out two months ahead of schedule, according to Freedom2surf, but BT has other ideas

A UK company claims to have launched an 8Mbps broadband service based on BT's IPStream Max, two months before BT plans to launch this service itself.

Details of Freedom2surf's new 8Mbps service were released on Thursday on the company's Web site, advertising speeds of "up to 8Mbps". A press release also stated that the service was being released by Freedom2surf "following its successful BT IPStream trial in December 2005".

"The 8Mbit [sic] service will initially be available from 53 exchanges across the UK, and it is hoped that this will rise to 5,300 exchanges by 31st March 2006," said Freedom2surf.

So is this 8Mbps for the masses? Apparently not. According to BT on Friday, IPStream Max "hasn't been launched yet". BT has been planning to launch the service this spring since last autumn.

"This is part of the BT trial," said a spokesperson for Freedom2surf, who didn't explain why the press release clearly stated that it is a new service.

Information posted on the Freedom2surf Web site states that the speed of its broadband service has been increased from 2Mbps to 8Mbps and will be available to everybody, once their exchanges have been upgraded to 8Mbps broadband.

But since because 8Mbps broadband only works over a shorter distance than regular broadband, it is unclear just how many people will be able to get the new service.

But Freedom2surf is at least clear about one thing, the price. It will be £14.99 per month for an 8Mbps connection — less than many slower broadband services today — plus a £49.99 activation fee, although this package limits users to downloading just 2GB of data each month, equivalent to just over half an hour's activity using the full bandwidth.

For £19.99, they can raise their monthly bandwidth to 10GB, while an uncapped service will cost £42.99 per month.

BT's trials used a technology called DSL Max, which offers the promise of faster upload speeds than standard ADSL, which could appeal to businesses who want to run bandwidth-hungry applications like VoIP and video streaming.