BT drops fibre broadband speeds

BT is lowering expectations of its supposedly ultra-fast fibre-optic broadband rollout, even before many areas get upgraded to support the technology.

Previously, BT Wholesale had advised resellers of its Fibre-to-the-Cabinet service that the minimum supported speed would be 15Mb/s downstream - but in an effort to increase its customer base, the company has revised its lower limit to a mere 5Mb/s.

While the new limit means that customers further away from a cabinet with a fibre connection will be able to sign up to the service, it's a significant drop from the service's 'up to' 40Mb/s speed originally promised - and, for those on particularly long lines, may mean a connection that is actually slower than copper-based ADSL.

In a statement to resellers, BT Wholesale advised the following: "There are no changes to our ordering process or systems and circuits should be ordered following the standard FTTC ordering journey. If a circuit has a predicted speed between 5Mbit/s to 15Mbit/s the order should be placed requesting a 40Mbit/s downstream and 2Mbit/s upstream option. The circuits will be provided to the highest speed supported by the line."

It's not yet known if the new lowered limits will affect BT's own much-publicised Infinity fibre-optic broadband service, which has seen a big marketing push in recent months, or whether the company is cynically dropping expectations of its wholesale products in order to steer end-users towards its own, higher margin, retail products.

UPDATE 26/11/2010 11:14: BT has contacted THINQ to clarify that the 5Mb/s guarantee is "in addition to the mainstream version of the service which has a minimum assured downstream speed of 15Mb/s," allowing wholesale customers to reach a wider audience while maintaining the higher limit for those with lines capable of supporting it - meaning, the company claims, that "some customers may see an improvement in their broadband speeds compared with the current speed they receive over the copper network." [our emphasis]