RealTime IT News

BT Finally Unveils Unlimited Net Access Plan

After much criticism, speculation and anticipation, British Telecom Tuesday laid out its plan for unmetered Internet access.

The move could have widespread impact on the Internet sector in the UK, with BT is set to cut the cost of dial-up calls to the Internet through its new BT Surftime service. The new plans will be offered to consumers and small businesses, encouraging greater Internet and e-commerce penetration in the region.

BT Surftime, which still needs to be approved by Oftel, is expected to roll out in the spring of next year. The unlimited access plan will be rated at a monthly fee, and promises to meet the needs of the both ends of the usage spectrum.

Infrequent users can subscribe to a subscription access plan, which allows them to pay for the Internet as they go. Weekend options are also expanded, with a £6.99 ($11) charge for unlimited access on weekends in addition to the ISP's charges. Night-time charges during the week will be one penny a minute, two pence during the day.

For daytime Net access, the BT plan rates £26.99 ($43) per month for office-hour usage, and a penny a minute outside of the designated time span. A separate plan without any time restrictions is rated at £34.99 ($56) per month, plus ISP charges.

The plan will also allow customers to have their ISP charges included in their monthly BT phone bills.

Oftel last week forced the telco to offer interconnection to enable other operators and ISPs to provide similar services. The opening of BT's local loop was made part of its new licensing agreement. An industry forum chaired by Oftel is being set up to work through the interconnection arrangements.

The same day as the Oftel decision, BT chairman Sir Iain Vallance hit back at critics in parliament, industry, the press and the Internet-using public who accuse the company of holding up the introduction of high-speed services and of not offering unmetered access.

BT said that the new pricing model is not related to these accusations, but instead follows on the £5 billion ($8 billion) investment the telco is infusing to build on its IP network, increasing its total points to 103 from 14 by March.

"BT Surftime is the most significant development for the Internet in the UK," said Bill Cockburn, group managing director of BT UK. "It has been made possible through a major new network investment in addition to thehundreds of millions of pounds we have already invested."