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TalkTalk launches 80Mbps service as BT plans the same

TalkTalk, a BT Wholesale customer, may start offering its household and business customers the new tier of super-fast broadband before BT's own retail customers get a look in
Written by David Meyer, Contributor

TalkTalk has announced an 80Mbps broadband service, taking advantage of a speed boost on BT's network that BT is not yet offering to its own customers.


TalkTalk, a BT wholesale customer, has begun offering an 80Mbps broadband connection, before BT retail has announced its own service. Photo credit: Mark Hillary/Flickr

The ISP said on Monday that from early April, customers in certain areas will be able to get up to 80Mbps, instead of the current maximum of 40Mbps. People can pre-register now to receive the boosted service, which will also provide upload speeds of up to 20Mbps, as long as their area is fibre enabled.

People on one of TalkTalk's standard packages can already get upgraded to fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) speeds by paying an extra £10 a month. It will only cost an additional £5 on top of that to get 80Mbps, a spokesman for the ISP confirmed to ZDNet UK.

"It's quite a disruptive pricing plan," the spokesman said on Tuesday. "Most people think of fibre broadband as something that's very expensive."

In May, BT said 2012 would see a rough doubling of its FTTC speeds, from 40Mbps to 80Mbps. On Monday, it announced that its ISP customers such as TalkTalk will get to offer these boosted speeds from early April.

"FTTC technology underpins the majority of BT's £2.5bn commercial rollout of super-fast fibre broadband in the UK," BT Openreach said in a statement. "It currently delivers up to 40Mbps downstream and up to 10Mbps upstream. The rough doubling of these speeds marks a significant milestone in BT's development of the technology and is expected to deliver a significant boost to households and businesses within BT's fibre footprint."

However, it is not clear when BT's retail arm will itself start offering the faster broadband speeds. A spokesman for BT Retail said this announcement will come "shortly", but offered no further details. This raises the possibility of BT's ISP customers getting better connectivity before its retail customers do.

Meanwhile Plusnet, a BT-owned ISP, said on Friday that its trial of '80/20 FTTC' — up to 80Mbps on the downlink and up to 20Mbps on the uplink — has yielded positive results. It also called for more of its current fibre customers to join the trial.

In a blog post, Plusnet referred to the limitations of FTTC. Unlike fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP), which BT is set to offer with speeds of up to 300Mbps, FTTC still uses the legacy DSL connection between the house and the street cabinet.

"Like all other DSL technologies, 80/20 is a distance-dependant technology, but as it's a fibre-to-the-cabinet product, it's the distance between property and cabinet that matters rather than property and exchange," Plusnet said.

The biggest rival to BT's network is Virgin Media's cable offering. At the start of this month, Virgin kicked off its own speed-doubling exercise, which gives some customers up to 100Mbps connectivity.

Virgin said in February that more than 10 million homes and businesses could access its 100Mbps service. By contrast, BT said on Monday that it has made its slower FTTC connectivity available to more than seven million premises.

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