Be Un Limited

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Sky Home Communications Limited
Type ISP
Industry Internet & Communications
Founded 2004
Headquarters London, United Kingdom
Key people Carolyn Hewitt, Daniel Cunliffe, Louise Kirlew[1]
Products Broadband
Owners BSkyB

Sky Home Communications Limited (trading as Be There, Be Unlimited or simply Be) is an Internet service provider in the United Kingdom. It was previously part of Spanish group Telefónica Europe, which also owns O2. BSkyB agreed on 1 March 2013 to buy the fixed telephone line and broadband business of Telefónica Europe, trading under the O2 and BE brands. The company agreed to pay £180 million initially, followed by a further £20 million after all customers had been transferred to Sky's existing business. The sale was approved on 25 March 2013.[2]

Be offers ADSL2+ services through BT's telephone exchanges via Local Loop Unbundling (LLU), with advertised speeds of up to 16 Mbit/s downstream and 1.9 Mbit/s upstream, subject to Annex M enablement, line length and quality,[3] making BE the fastest mainstream ADSL ISP in Britain. Although BE's services were initially only available in selected parts of London, Manchester and Birmingham, it has undergone a programme of rapid expansion across the UK making it available in at least 1,256 of the UK's telephone exchanges.[4][5]

Services and fair-use policy[edit]

All three levels of non-bonded ADSL service come provided with a leased "BE Box", a branded Technicolor (formerly Thomson) SpeedTouch router. Internet access is unlimited and offers uncapped bandwidth usage subject to compliance with one of the industry's more lenient Fair Usage policies. Uncapped services are currently quite unusual from UK-based ISPs due to the high cost of backhaul over BT's core backhaul network (BE uses independent Level3/GlobalCrossing backhaul, peering primarily at LINX).[6] BE does not stipulate monthly bandwidth usage restrictions in its small print, however it has taken action against several users since 2006 for dramatically excessive usage where it affected other customers' access, including disconnecting a customer on a congested exchange who consumed over one terabyte of data in a month.[7][8] Its policy states that it will take action against users whose usage is ' excessive that other members are detrimentally affected' at its discretion.[9]

Customers must have active and compatible telephone lines to receive the service, provided by either BE or BT or a reseller such as Post Office's Home Phone service. Fully unbundled telephone lines from companies like TalkTalk are not compatible and a BE LLU or BT-based telephone line will need to be installed.

The majority of users who are 500 metres or less from their local telephone exchanges should achieve connection speeds close to the advertised maximum; with Annex M and interleaving disabled ('fastpath') on a 300 metre loop length, a sync speed of 24 Mbit/s downstream and 2.5 Mbit/s upstream is easily achievable.

Platform and technical information[edit]

BE's service is delivered over ADSL2+ (ITU G.992.5). It is one of the few UK offerings to utilise the Annex M extension to increase the upload speed anywhere up to the full technical maximum of ~2 Mbit/s to its BE Pro customers. The end user's router transmits data to and from the telephone exchange using Ethernet over ATM (ETHoA, RFC 1483).

The UK ISP claims not to shape traffic in any way, although circumstantial reports suggest otherwise. Traffic is only limited by available bandwidth and by any congestion at the local exchange. BE blocks port SMTP traffic over Port 25 to and from external destinations for users with dynamic IP addresses in order to prevent its dynamic IP pool being blacklisted. The result is that a user with a dynamic IP address can only use BE's SMTP server for sending email. In order to use a different SMTP server, users need to use ports 465 or 587; to host a mail server on their own local network, users must subscribe to a service with a static IP address.

Parent company O2 launched its own broadband product on 15 October 2007. Connections on the O2 Broadband brand are also delivered over the BE network infrastructure, in effect resulting in two broadband companies delivering services over a platform on which previously only one company was operating. This, coupled with the fact that there are now officially over three times the number of subscribers using the platform since the launch of O2 Broadband,[10] caused some BE users to voice concerns over the future performance, stability and contention of the service. Such concerns were generally groundless, as BE upgraded its network capacity to accommodate new customers.[11]

Wholesale Network Access[edit]

In addition, since 10 March 2008, BE/O2 has resold wholesale access of its network to other providers.[12] The first of these companies was Vaioni,[13] which launched an "up to 20 Mbit/s business class ADSL2+ service" featuring up to 2.5 Mbit/s upstream and a guaranteed 10:1 contention ratio with prices starting from £140.99 per month. Vaioni's product, branded 'Ultra 20', is aimed at small to medium-sized businesses and schools.

In August 2009 the UK ISP Andrews & Arnold entered into an agreement to use BE's core and LLU networks to augment BT's legacy 20CN and 21CN infrastructure.[14] Many other business connectivity providers now offer BE wholesale service; a list of them is available on the official BE Usergroup wiki.

Network Upgrades[edit]

On 6 October 2011, BE announced an overhaul of its core network to increase bandwidth, prepare for a transition to IPv6 and improve network resiliency. During this time customers with static and dynamic IP addresses were assigned new addresses; BE took the approach of rebuilding its entire network, migrating customers, changing IP address blocks and incurring a small one-off period of downtime during an end user's migration. This migration was implemented in phases with a transitional period with both old and new network settings operating concurrently.

BE is also changing its methods of assigning static IP addresses, selling netblocks of one, six and fourteen as opposed to the old system of a group of addresses from a pool of arbitrarily available IPs. Customers are being migrated over a six to eight months period.[15]


In late June 2011, BE's managing director Chris Stening announced a fibre optic service to directly compete with BT Infinity. This service would also utilise FTTC technology, one of the new generation Fibre to the X technologies, with speeds and pricing yet to be determined.[16][17] BE updated customers on their progress in September 2011; but whilst receiving 'thousands' of pre-registrations, as of 2011 they were yet to partner with a suitable company operating a national fibre network which allowed them to offer the level of service desired.[18]

On 8 November 2011, BE customers who pre-registered for fibre received an email informing them of a single-exchange trial. BE would install its own equipment in BT's Barking exchange, as there were sufficient BE users in the area and FTTC was readily available via Openreach. A shortlist of 25 people was to be gathered, from which an initial 10 testers would be secured. They would then submit regular feedback over a period of up to six months, sharing their experiences publicly via the BE Blog. The new service was specified as using Openreach GEA (Generic Ethernet Access), allowing data from BT to be transferred to BE's DSLAM equipment instead of routing it to a Point of Presence (PoP) via BT's core network.[19][20]

As of late 2012, only staff and a small number of customers on a single exchange had participated in limited trials. In April 2012, BE announced that it was unlikely to launch a fibre product in 2012 but hoped to do so on a limited basis at an unspecified future date.[21]

See also[edit]


External links[edit]