BT Internet is extending its unmetered internet access to include weekday evenings and is cutting the subscription charge to £9.99 a month.
Suprisingly the service is cheaper than the proposed pricing for BT's unmetered internet access service - called Surftime - which would cost £13.98 for the same service.
BT Internet is currently unmetered from midnight Friday until midnight Sunday and costs £11.75 per month. From tomorrow it will also be unlimited on weekdays from 6pm until midnight and will cost £9.99 per month.
Customers don't need a BT phone line to use the service, but need to sign up to BT Internet. This means that other internet accounts, such as AOL or Freeserve, cannot be accessed directly using the service.
The BT Internet deal is separate from Surftime, announced last December and expected to launch in the second quarter of this year. Customers of any ISP will be able to use Surftime to access the Internet on an unmetered basis at certain times of day.
Surftime will offer unlimited access at the weekend for £6.99 per month, at off-peak times for £6.99 per month, during the daytime for £26.99 a month, or at all times for £34.99. A spokeswoman for BT said the Surftime pricing is being examined by Oftel and may change before the launch.
Surftime's off-peak access runs from 6pm to 8am, while the BT Internet service is just from 6pm to midnight. Surftime will also be able to access any ISP, not just BT Internet.
Nick Gibson, internet analyst at researcher Durlacher, said: "It looks like something of a reaction to Telewest's unmetered internet access offer but could also be a pre-emptive strike against potential similar offers from NTL/Cable & Wireless Communications and other large telecoms competitors. One wonders whether or not this is the beginnings of an internet call charge price war."
BT said its network capacity is ready to handle any surge in internet calls the service produces. A BT spokesman said there were problems when the 0800 weekend service was launched last year, but said a lot of extra capacity had been added since then.
BT also said the network problems last Friday and Saturday, which made many internet access and freephone numbers unavailable have now been resolved. The telco said the problem was caused by an equipment failure during upgrade work.
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