BT goes hi-tech in battle with low-cost rivals
By Tony glover Technology Editor
25 June 2006
BT last week began offering futuristic services such as free internet video calling to its broadband customers in an attempt to take on low-cost rivals such as Carphone Warehouse and internet voice specialist Skype.
Skype, recently acquired by eBay, became the traditional operators’ worst nightmare by offering free international voice and video calling on the internet.
Now BT is offering a service called Softphone that also enables free voice calling using a PC as part of its Total Broadband service. PC users can also use the service for high-quality video conferencing. Free calls can be made anywhere in the world and people who are not BT broadband customers can access the service from their PC by downloading software from the BT website.
As exclusively predicted in The Business, Carphone Warehouse recently started an industry price war in the UK by offering “free” broadband as part of a package of telecoms services.
BT has hit back with its own bargain-basement broadband offer. Its new service starts at only £9.95 ($18.71, E14.60) a month – half the rate charged for the Carphone Warehouse Free Broadband Forever. But the £9.95 offer only runs for six months before rising to £17.99 a month. This tariff is for the most basic package and means consumers will also have to fork out a one-off payment of £30 for BT’s wi-fi base port, the Home Hub. This kit comes free with the more expensive £22.99 and £26.99 a month tariffs. Since these two options also comprise other essential features such anti-virus protection while first does not, it is hard to see BT’s £9.95 a month offering as anything more than a marketing ploy.
But BT’s real competitive edge is not price but the quality of its 8Mb service. As from last week, BT Total Broadband offers users a wireless networked home with services not available from other UK service providers. These include free internet video calling of a high standard plus internet voice calling that has a far wider sound frequency than standard fixed lines and offers better sound quality than any other phone service on the market.
BT also has a number of add-ons. These include always-on video phones which do not involve using a PC screen and look much like a normal phone. These cost £149.99 each or £199.99 for two. Other kit includes a remote access security service that monitors the user’s home in real time with up to 18 digital video cameras.
BT press release
DC06-305 June 20, 2006
BT launches Total Broadband - the complete service for today and tomorrow
BT today announced BT Total Broadband, the most comprehensive broadband packages yet seen in the UK - available from June 21st. Powered by ultra-fast download speeds of up to 8Mb, BT customers now get more for their money through free internet voice calls, free video calls, and a suite of security software – and all brought together through the revolutionary BT Home Hub. BT Total Broadband even gives freedom to roam outside the home with Wi-fi via free BT Openzone wireless minutes.
The launch of BT’s complete Total Broadband service demonstrates that not all broadband is equal and that simple access through a basic broadband connection is often a false economy, where customers end up paying later for additional features and services. With BT Total Broadband, new customers taking Option 3 get an estimated £370 of value included in the first year.
In addition to enjoying a comprehensive set of features as standard, only BT Total Broadband customers will be able to enjoy BT’s cutting-edge broadband-based offerings. These include the intelligent mobile service, BT Fusion, and BT Vision, the next-generation TV service scheduled for launch in Autumn 2006.
From June 21, new BT customers will get a choice of three simple Options starting from £9.95 a month, all offering ultra-fast download speeds of up to 8Mb and free Evening & Weekend UK* voice calls with BT’s Broadband Talk service.
Ian Livingston, CEO of BT Retail, said, “The broadband experience is about so much more than just having basic access to the internet. Customers want their broadband to offer a range of exciting content and services as standard, without having to pay extra for these features.”
“BT Total Broadband is the complete broadband service. Combined with the BT Home Hub, there is now a simple, powerful way to experience the full range of exciting broadband services at home or when out and about with Wi-fi via BT Openzone.
“Customers will enjoy free voice and video calls, and with helpdesks they can trust and a suite of security software included, can have complete confidence when using the internet. In fact, Total Broadband includes products and services worth over £370 a year for free in its subscription price.”
In addition to free connection charges and 24/7 helpdesk support, BT Total Broadband customers benefit from complete confidence in their broadband with a comprehensive all-in-one security software suite providing online protection and support against identity theft, spam email, pop-ups, viruses and hackers. BT’s helpdesk can even take over your computer to fix problems remotely, or arrange to visit your home.
BT Total Broadband now includes 250 free BT Openzone Wi-fi minutes per month during the minimum term. This gives customers access to the internet at any of the thousands of BT Openzone Wi-fi hotspots in places such as cafes, hotels and airports in the UK and around the world.
The BT Home Hub is a stylish, powerful device, designed to sit at the heart of the digital home. It supports BT’s full range of services including both Total Broadband and Broadband Talk, connecting wirelessly to PCs and other broadband devices. The Home Hub is future-proofed, updating automatically to work seamlessly with future BT Broadband offerings including BT Fusion and BT Vision.
The BT Home Hub is provided free of charge to all new customers taking Total Broadband Options 2 or 3. Option 1 customers can buy it separately for £30.00 online or for £50.00 via the BT call centre. A matching digital cordless phone handset is included with Option 3 or is available to buy separately for £49.99.
BT has upgraded its BT Broadband Talk suite of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) products, and is launching two new services: Broadband Talk Softphone and Broadband Talk Video. Developed at BT’s Adastral Park research laboratories, BT Broadband Talk is one of the most advanced VoIP services on the market and is now available with high-definition sound for delivering crystal clear internet voice and video calls.
BT Broadband Talk combines ease of use with great features and superb value, giving free Evening and Weekend UK* calls, great low international call rates and includes calling features such as 1471 and BT Answer. BT’s new PC-based Softphone, gives free global PC-to-PC chat at any time of day and compatibility with BT Broadband Talk through one calling plan and one phone number.
Finally, BT announced the launch of BT Broadband Talk Video, including the BT Videophone. Customers equipped with a BT Videophone can see the person they are talking to, and the service is compatible with PC users equipped with Softphone and a webcam. Two models of Videophone will be available, starting from £149.99.
New customers can order BT Total Broadband from June 21, 2006 at www.bt.com/broadband or by calling 0800 800 150.
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NOTES TO EDITORS
BT Total Broadband portfolio from June 21, 2006
BT Total Broadband Option 1 BT Total Broadband Option 2 BT Total Broadband Option 3
Fast and secure surfing plus free calls Family surfing and free calls Power surfing and free calls
£9.95 for 6 months then £17.99 £14.99 for 3 months then £22.99 £22.99 for 3 month then £26.99
Free BT 220v Router Free BT Home Hub Free BT Home Hub and handset
*Free Evening and Weekend UK BT Broadband Talk calls **Free video calls
2GB usage allowance 6GB usage allowance 40GB usage allowance
250 free Openzone a month minutes for the length of the minimum term
Download speeds of up to 8Mb
24/7 Helpdesk support
18 month contract 12 month contract 12 month contract
Usage allowance will take effect one month after installation for new customers and one month after existing customers are migrated.
With BT Total Broadband, customers get an estimated £370 of value included in the first year:
* Wirelessly connect up to 15 devices via BT Home Hub - £90 value
* Broadband out of the home via Wi-fi - £120 value.
* Free Evening & Weekend calls - £36 value
* Hi-definition sound – handset £80 value.
* Norton PC anti-virus and firewall - £42 value.
* Free video calls until Jan 2007
* Pop-up blocker, anti-spyware, anti-spam, anti-phishing, parental controls, ID theft support.
* 24x7 Local Rate support with remote PC access.
* Market-leading content from Yahoo!
* Up to 8Mb.
* Access to BT Vision & BT Fusion
* BT Videophone
* Expert support for all your Home IT needs – over the phone or via a visit.
Based on first 12 months of contract length.
Broadband speed and availability
BT’s Up to 8Mb BT Broadband service uses new ‘rate-adaptive’ ADSL technology to automatically provide and maintain the fastest broadband speed a phone line can physically support. The actual maximum speed depends on a range of factors, including the customer’s proximity to their telephone exchange, the quality and length of any telephone extension lines in their home, and the speed of their computer and modem. So, for example, customers living close to their exchange could get the full 8Mb speed, whilst those living further away might achieve lower maximum speeds of 6Mb, 4Mb, or 2Mb. The Up to 8Mb service is also subject to local availability.
As with all broadband services, actual download speeds will also vary by time of day and will depend on factors such as how busy the internet is, the speed of the internet website or service you are accessing, and whether the connection is being shared with other users.
Extra microfilters as well a range of 8Mb-compatible wired and wireless routers are available for sale from BT by calling 0800 800 150.
* BT Broadband Talk free Evening and Weekend UK calls
Free Local or National calls of up to one hour between 1800 and 0600 evenings and weekends. Excludes calls to the Internet, non-geographic numbers (i.e. 0845 or 0870 numbers), premium rate services, mobiles and the Channel Islands.
** BT Broadband Talk free Video Calls
If you buy a BT Videophone or PC to PC when caller and recipient have BT Softphone and Webcam Offer with purchase of BT Video phone ends 31.01.07. Applies when using a BT Videophone, or BT Softphone with webcam on calls to other BT Videophones and BT Softphones used with Webcams. Excludes video calls to mobiles (3G calls) and voice calls. Requires broadband, BT Broadband Talk Subscription and compatible router or BT Home hub. Terms and Conditions apply.