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BT broadband punters must register for 8 meg upgrade

First come, first served

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BT Retail's 2.3m broadband customers will not be automatically upgraded to the telco's new ADSL Max 8 meg service. Instead, BT broadband customers desperate for more speed will have to register their interest at a BT website (www.bt.com/getbroadband) and wait their turn.

Although the upgrade is free, those signing up to the faster speed will be tied in to a new 12 month contract.

A spokesman for the phone company said it had opted for this registration option because it is "fairer", with those who most want the 8 meg service getting it first.

New customers can get the 8 meg service now if they're prepared to pay top whack (£29.99 a month) for BT's "Option 4" package. Cheaper packages (Options 1, 2, and 3) with the higher speed are due to become available during spring.

Elsewhere, AOL UK is taking a different approach to moving users onto the 8 meg service. AOL Platinum customers currently receiving its premium 2 meg service are to be upgraded automatically to 8 meg between May and July. There is no charge for the upgrade and users will be notified of the alteration three days beforehand.

On 31 March, BT Wholesale completed its nationwide upgrade of its broadband network giving ISPs the option to shunt end users onto faster speeds. Even though some exchanges have been capable of ramping up to the ADSL Max 8 meg for months now, BT Wholesale decided to unveil the upgrade in one go - unlike its 2 meg roll-out last year with exchanges becoming available as and when they came online.

One of the reasons for this approach is BT Wholesale's desire to distance itself from local loop unbundling (LLU) operators that cherry pick the most lucrative exchanges. Instead, BT Wholesale is keen to show it is a national provider with countrywide reach, rather than an operator targeting those areas of highest demand.

BT Wholesale is planning to migrate around 360,000 broadband lines onto the ADSL Max service each week which also goes to explain why ISPs aren't rolling out the service in one go.

Of course, once provided with an 8 meg line, there are no guarantees that end users will reach such speeds. According to BT, eight in ten broadband users should be able to get 4 meg and above, while only those people closest to their BT exchange can expect speeds nearing 8 meg. ®

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