AOL said new customers will be able to subscribe "within a few weeks" to its flat-rate unmetered internet service, which launched this week for long-standing subscribers only.
The ISP claims it has signed up more than one tenth of its current membership base to the £14.99 a month unmetered service since Monday. AOL won't disclose its exact user base, but said "many tens of thousands" of subscribers are eligible for the first phase of sign-up.
Matt Peacock, a spokesman for AOL UK, said: "Getting our members on board is a pretty fast process. We will continue to switch our existing members to unmetered through October and expect the service to be available to everyone in a few weeks."
While AOL is regarded as a latecomer to the unmetered internet arena, its service is one of the first to be based on BT's wholesale Flat Rate Internet Access Call Origination (Friaco) tariff. In recent weeks some companies have attributed mistakes in their unmetered offerings to BT's failure to offer the Friaco service.
World Online angered its customers this week with the announcement that it will increase the price of its unmetered internet service by almost £10 a month and introduce a per-minute charge for heavy users. It said ISPs are restricted in the pricing and cost of unmetered services until Friaco is widely available.
ISP Claranet has also announced that it has been forced to delay the launch of its 24/7 unmetered internet access package, because of Friaco's unavailability. It said: "The launch of FreeTime AnyTime is dependent on the availability of Friaco. Our latest information indicates that this product may not become available until December 2000 at the earliest."
But according to both BT and AOL, Friaco is available. BT has said that more than 50 per cent of local exchanges are Friaco- enabled with all expected to be enabled by the end of November.
AOL's Peacock also claims that although not all exchanges are Friaco-enabled, its network providers are still able to offer a mix of flat-rate solutions, such as leased lines, without paying a metered charge.
"Unmetered internet access can be done if you understand it and your network providers do. But we invented Friaco so understand it. But if we are to have a better internet industry in the UK, BT has to accelerate the roll out and understanding of Friaco," said Peacock.
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