Ever since August 2000 when BT first launched their broadband internet package, speeds have been increasing and prices have been dropping. The end aim of the UK government and all broadband providers is high-speed internet in every home in Britain.
Broadband is the name given to always-on, high-speed internet. High-speed internet is a connection that runs at 512Kbps or faster. Currently 6 million homes in the UK have a broadband connection, either through ADSL, Cable or LLU, of which 4 million are connected by ADSL.
The fastest commercially available internet connection out there is 8Mbps. With such a fast speed users can download music in seconds, stream live television and be shared between a household of computers so all the family can have a decent internet connection.
Wanadoo Broadband, the main competitor to BT broadband is running a LLU trial over summer 2005. Local Loop Unbundling is currently only used by 1% of households but if trials prove successful Wanadoo could be switching to this instead of BT’s ADSL which is really what all other ADSL providers use. LLU is only possible now BT have been forced to surrender their open loop (their network of telephone lines over the country) and will involve Wanadoo installing their own equipment at BT telephone exchanges to by-pass BT’s network and onto their own. For the customer this means Wanadoo internet will be cheaper and faster in the not-so-distant future.
BT have 1.7 million people subscribed onto their broadband where Wanadoo have 0.7 million. Other main contenders in the broadband war are Tiscali, Homecall, Pipex and AOL. All offer their own competitive prices. The main Cable provider in the UK is NTL.
Recently many ISP’s have been increasing their internet speeds to fight off the competition. The standard ADSL connection at the moment is 2Mbps, with 8Mbps at the high end and 512Kbps at the low. As well as increasing the speed and price ISP’s have also been putting up the bandwidth allowances for their customers. Typically your bandwidth allowance may be 3 GB, with 1 GB at the low end and unlimited at the high end.
ISP’s implement bandwidth allowances with the increasing popularity of downloading music, TV shows and films from the internet. 1-2 GB is more than enough for normal WebPages and chat room access but limited if you wish to download a lot of music and video files. Since most people download such files illegally it isn’t a large problem, but if you accidentally go over your monthly limit you could spend the rest of the month with a limited internet speed or no access at all.
The main complaint of users in the early days of Broadband Britain was accessibility. Many BT exchanges were simply out of date and the phone lines incapable of handling such fast data streams. Today 96.6% of all UK households are within a broadband area and BT is constantly upgrading their existing network, aiming to cover the entire country as soon as possible.
Broadband in the United Kingdom is expanding faster and faster. Package prices are decreasing and speeds are increasing with heavy competition on all sides. The future sees Internet becoming an ever increasing presence in each UK household, replacing televisions, radios and telephones.