Be, the next-generation broadband network operator purchased by O2 last June, has extended its network to reach a third of the UK population.
Be announced this week that it has now installed its equipment in 500 BT telephone exchanges. This allows it to offer its ADSL2+ broadband services to roughly 33 percent of the population.
ADSL2+ is a faster broadband technology, which provides speeds up to a theoretical maximum of 24Mbps (megabits per second). This is three times faster than standard ADSL broadband, which is available to over 99 percent of the UK population through BT.
Be is aiming to install its equipment in a further 300 exchanges — via a process known as local-loop unbundling — by the end of this summer. This will raise its network coverage to 50 percent of the population. The takeover of Be is a key part of O2's strategy to become a converged communications company, and not just one that offers mobile services.
However, Be has also attracted controversy. Last month it was criticised by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) for misleading customers, after not making it clear that customers could only get 24Mbps speeds if they lived very close to their telephone exchange. Be customers have also complained of network outages. In March 2006 it apologised after its network crashed.
And just this week, one ZDNet UK reader complained that he lost his Be broadband connection after a network failure in London. "They should take a long, hard look at whether they can provide the service they promise to their current customers before even starting to contemplate expansion," said Alex Coby.
Coby added that whenever he phoned Be's customer support team he was greeted with a "network busy tone", and that it took two days to get through.
In response, Be blamed the outage on a power cut in Upton Park, East London, which it said affected other broadband suppliers.
"We restored connection as soon as possible after power was restored. I'm unable to offer any advice on why the call centre were not in a position to assist on this as the grade of service we were offering at the time of the outage was on target," a Be spokesman told ZDNet UK on Thursday.
Be's ADSL2+ network now covers the following locations: London, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Bristol, Warrington, Leicester, Reading, Slough, Nottingham, Leeds, Northampton, Sheffield, Glasgow, Hemel Hempstead, Preston, Croydon, Derby, Milton Keynes, Edinburgh, Brighton, Southampton, Middlesbrough, Coventry and Tunbridge Wells.