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O2 limits unlimited broadband packages

'Aim for 10GB and you'll be OK'

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Just as it runs a high-profile advertising campaign boasting it is "nobbling broadband niggles", O2 has begun telling users of its "unlimited" broadband packages that they shouldn't download more than 10GB in a month.

Those who ignore the warning face disconnection, which might be considered a niggle.

The new policy affects customers whose connections are not unbundled from BT at the local exchange and branded as "O2 Home Access".

As noted today by ISPreview, O2 began writing to heavy users in March, prompting complaints on customer forums. It has now updated its traffic management page to reflect the new regime.

"Most O2 customers use less than 10GB a month. Aim for that and you'll be okay," the passive-aggressive page warns.

Bizarrely, it adds: "We don't set a limit on how much you can use each month. Most people use a different amount each month. But if we've asked you to cut back, it's because you're consistently above the monthly average."

The doublespeak is exactly the type of broadband marketing guff that Ofcom's voluntary code of practice aims to restrict.

O2 says the new limits are designed to improve service for the majority of its Home Access customers. Its traffic management systems for non-unbundled packages now also restrict P2P and newsgroup traffic to just 50Kbit/s at peak times - "typically the afternoon and evening".

"All we're doing is encouraging people to use peer to peer programs and newsgroups when there's less traffic, to help our broadband flow better," it says.

Well, up to a point. O2's problem, and the problem for all ISPs using BT's exchange equipment, is that they have to pay for bandwidth on an ongoing basis rather than for the one-off cost of installing their own gear. So generally they opt only to resell BT broadband at rural exchanges where the number of lines they are likely to provide doesn't justify the cost of unbundling.

For those non-unbundled customers they have a choice to either take the financial hit from heavy users or to apply technical restrictions and download limits. That or they could try not overselling by claiming the service is "unlimited" in the first place.

Unbundled and Be Broadband customers, who use the same network, are unaffected by O2's new limits on "unlimited".

The next generation of broadband, based on VDSL and fibre-to-the-premises, may see a move away from unbundling and back to BT reselling if providers balk at another round of capital investment. Orange has already announced it is migrating back to BT kit. ®

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