The migration of thousands of people onto higher speed broadband services has been put on hold after BT admitted that a key system has been floored by a software glitch.
ISPs have been gearing up to begin the mass migration of punters onto BT's new DSL Max service, which gives broadband users speeds of up to 8 meg. But yesterday, the UK's former monopoly gave ISPs just 20 minutes notice that a key tool needed to migrate users was flawed and needed to be pulled.
BT's decision to scrap the bulk migration of DSL users for at least a couple of weeks is yet another blow to ISPs who depend on wholesale services from BT. LLU operators have been offering 8 meg services for more than a year now, yet ISPs dependent on BT's network are still waiting for the incumbent telco to get it right.
Around 200,000 people have so far been switched to DSL Max, but it's been discovered that the key bulk migration tool that allows ISPs to switch their customers onto ADSL Max is unable to cope with these early beta test volumes.
One industry source explained that while the new 8 meg speed is set on the customers' line, the corresponding connection is not made on BT's core network. As a result, punters checking their setting can see that they should be on the higher speed, but in reality are getting 2 meg tops.
One punter who has fallen victim to the BT cock-up, told us: "The DSL Max upgrade process is an absolute shambles. My own connection is synchronising at around 5.5 meg with the exchange but my download speed is still stuck at my pre-upgrade speed of 1 meg. This is 13 days after the upgrade with no sign of a fix in sight. Other users have seen their connections become completely unstable with regular disconnections."
The decision to pull the service came hours after BT published its latest set of financial figures in which it bragged about its DSL Max project. The monster telco boasted how DSL Max was "continuing BT's commitment to delivering higher speed broadband", which was launched at the end of March.
"In upgrading more than 5,300 exchanges to support this service, BT is providing the UK market with the highest stable speed broadband service across the widest national footprint in the world," it said. Stable?
Sheffield-based ISP PlusNet was particularly scathing of BT. PlusNet marketing director Neil Armstrong said: "So far we've given free up-to-8Mbps upgrades to around 35,000 of our existing customers - more than any other ISP. We use the bulk upgrade tool provided by BT, but yesterday at 1pm, with less than 20 minutes notice, BT stopped ISPs placing any more upgrade orders.
"Now we can't place more orders to upgrade the remainder of our customers until BT resolves the issues they have, which is expected to be several weeks away. This is really frustrating as customers have been looking forward to 8Mbps speeds for some time and this will lead to further disappointment."
He went on: "Of greater concern to us is that BT has not reduced the wholesale costs of broadband despite huge increases in take-up and usage levels in anticipation of higher speeds. UK consumers are not getting good value for money from BT right now."
In a statement, a BT Wholesale spokeswoman admitted there were problems. "We are taking the bulk migration beta trial down for a short period to fix a software issue with the system," she told us.
"We are confident that a fix can be put in place pretty quickly, but as a precaution we have decided not to take bulk migration orders for two weeks. This is so our ISP customers don't need to reset any end user migration dates."
"The vast majority of service providers are processing regrades via the existing system which is completely unaffected by this.
"Only those ISPs on the beta trial for the bulk migration system will experience a delay in placing order regrades - but we are confident that we will catch up very quickly when the system is back up. So realistically, very few consumers will experience a delay in having their broadband upgraded."®