Sunday is not usually the best day to get business news, but yesterday, a piece of news sent positive shivers or vibes down my spine. BT is apparently preparing to offer basic broadband to all its customers, the 20 million of them, as part of the new £10bn 21cn (21st century network) mesh the giant is currently building. The Mail on Sunday has learnt from a very well informed source that the network will be switched on as early as 2008, although it might be depending a lot on the state of BT's competitors and the OFCOM as well.
Wales and Cardiff will be the first to experiment the 21cn magic by the end of this year with the rest of country rolling shortly after. The old network will continue to run at the same time and it is almost certain that the new network will be only occupied by BT while the old network will be totally ceded to its competitors who will basically compete with each other as far as add-on services are concerned. Maintenance will still be carried out by BT engineers under the Openreach banner which was launched last September.
One must also bear in mind that BT is under growing pressure from all sides on its core services. VoIP threatening its landline and international calls, Mobile companies like Orange offering landline calls, Sky trying to treading on its market segments, others like NTL launching their own parallel networks and finally other telecommunication companies pushing forward their demands for local loop unbundling. That's a lot of competitors trying to eat your lunch.
However, one must expect this free universal broadband internet to come with loads of strings attached, just like the old BT would do. Expect the strict minimum download allocation (1GB per month), which a 8MB line would gobble in a matter of hours. And add to it a number of options which at the end of the day would become expensive add-ons. Coincidentally, Mail on Sunday has another article that explores how cheap internet can turn expensive.