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CallNet latest victim of unmetered popularity

CallNet 0800 becomes the latest unmetered ISP to admit it can't cope with demand as it suspends registration Tuesday and hints it may be forced to change its entire business model
Written by Jane Wakefield, Contributor

The ISP launched totally free Internet access back in November and despite assurances it could cope with demand buckled days later. Registration was suspended, then reinstated but the problems persisted. CallNet is not the only ISP to find itself unable to cope with the demand for unmetered services. Telewest, ntl and LibertySurf have all experienced problems as well.

CallNet admits its customers are not happy with the current level of service. "We accept that things are not perfect at the moment and we are working to improve things. In the light of Oftel's ruling you may well see entirely new business models from CallNet in the near future," a spokesman says.

In the short term CallNet is suspending new accounts and for the longer term plans to increase connection capacity which it admits will "take weeks rather than days". It is also scrapping its trademark 0800 number. 0800 will be decommissioned over the next two to three weeks to be replaced with 0808 105 0000. "The new number will provide you with the best access method and provides a more direct call-routing path and, yes, it is still completely free," the spokesman says.

Gartner Group analyst Adam Daum thinks this is the most sensible plan for all unmetered ISPs experiencing problems. "ISPs should catch breath. They have got themselves in a pickle and should take three or four weeks to work out costs and offer deliverable services," he says. "There is no such thing as a free lunch. It would be lovely if all these services worked but companies have overstretched themselves and have promised a lot more than they can deliver," he says.

Accusing the unmetered ISPs of being "irresponsible" Daum hopes Oftel's decision to force BT to roll out an alternative SurfTime product might ease the problem. "It would be great to see serious ISPs using Oftel's ruling and coming out with realistic price packages and offering quality of service," he says.

The magic Internet access price established by Demon eight years ago when it was actually called Tenner A Month -- will give you unlimited evening and weekend access through your favourite ISP. Let Guy Kewney explain everything. Go to AnchorDesk UK for the news comment.

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Check out our Unmetered guide which ZDNet is updating over the next couple of days to bring you the latest info on who is offering what and how the various services are coping.

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