When we first ventured onto the internet it was courtesy of a 9,600bps modem. Back then, downloading 100k took a few hours. Now downloading 100MB can be done in less than a minute, thanks to Be Unlimited, a new service provider specialising in super-fast broadband.
Before you get too excited, the sevice is not available everywhere yet. It has been rolled out in much of Greater London, and in Birmingham and Manchester and their surrounding areas. If you’re outside these locations, you’re out of luck for the moment.
Be is one of the few ISPs that are taking advantage of Local Loop Unbundling. That means that Be installs its own equipment at your local exchange. Unfortunately, that doesn’t negate the need for a BT line but it does mean that Be can administer the line directly.
With Be Unlimited you can download or upload as much data as you like – at lightning speeds. So if you want to serve a website from your home, Be won’t complain, in fact it makes it as simple as possible.
The Unlimited service costs £24 per month, plus £4 for a static IP address (ideal for hosting websites or game servers). There’s also a cheaper service with some limitations, Be Lite, that costs £14 per month. This lets you download 1GB per month, which is plenty for most users, and you still get the high-speed service.
One thing that makes Be different from other ISPs is that it promises to get you as fast a connection as conditions and technology allow. The theoretical top speed for the current technology is 24MB, although that is in laboratory conditions. In reality it depends on a number of factors, the main one being your distance from the telephone exchange. At about a mile from our exchange, we get just under 16MBps. Be has hinted that it aims to be the first to offer the 100MBps service currently seen only in Korea and Japan.
The service includes the BeBox, a fully featured, self-configuring (mostly) wireless router, which you simply plug it in. You don’t have to enter any passwords except when setting up things like wireless connections. There’s even a VoIP port for a forthcoming Be VoIP service.
The Be service has suffered a couple of hiccups, and the promise isn’t quite matching the service as yet. However, we’er inclined to forgive the teething troubles because of the way Be has set out its business. It is truly unlimited. The guy behind the company, Boris Ivanovic, has already set up a similar system in Sweden. He told us that the short contracts are in place (users can quit Be more easily than any other ISP we’ve seen), because they want to keep customers by offering superior service rather than by legal restrictions. If you’re lucky enough to be within a Be area, it’s well worth giving it a try.