Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Broadband will be free in two years/ BT/ Daily Mail

[February 26, 2006]

Broadband will be free in two years

(Daily Mail (London) (KRT) Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) Feb. 26--

BT IS planning to offer free broadband to all its customers -- currently 20 million -- when the telecoms giant's 10 billion 21st Century Network project is switched on.

This was originally scheduled for 2009, but will now probably be a year earlier, according to a senior company source.

"The 21CN system will give customers broadband dialtone -- meaning broadband will be available just by plugging a computer in as part of basic line rental," a spokesman said.

Additional services, including the possibility of buying extra fast download speeds for as little as a day at a time, will be possible. "With the new network, there is no need to install boxes or send engineers," the spokesman said.

The company is trying to decide whether it should also make its video-on-demand service, set for launch this summer, available to non-BT customers.

Crucial to the scheme is rapid progress in development of the new network. BT has only awarded half the contracts for building the system but says the signing of contracts is "imminent." The company will probably operate the old network in parallel with the new system to ease the transition.

The first city to be fitted with the new system will be Cardiff, where development should be complete before the end of the year.

Broadband dialtone will also help BT sell its mobile phone product Fusion, which switches calls to BT Broadband when the customer is at home.

So far the company has sold only 13,000, but this summer sees the launch of handsets from major manufacturers that can use wi-fi, the radio system millions of Britons use to connect home PC networks.

Ryan Jarvis, head of mobile products at BT, said: "At the moment, I can serve only customers with BT Broadband. Obviously, I want everyone to be a broadband user."

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