BT has today announced it is removing all limitations on its home broadband plans for any users still with capped subscriptions.
The BT Group, which also includes mobile network EE, said it wanted to help people stay connected during periods of isolation because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Almost all home broadband plans in the UK are now unlimited as companies moved away from capping traffic several years ago, unlike in the US where many users have strict restrictions.
MailOnline understands only a small number of BT customers still have limited plans and will be affected by the measure.
Customers who are directly affected will not be charged for exceeding their data limit at their next billing date, BT confirmed.
The UK currently has more than 3,350 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 144 deaths and yesterday Boris Johnson said the UK was approaching the ‘fast growth part of the upward curve’ in the number of cases. BT has today announced it is removing all limitations on its home broadband plans for any users still with capped subscriptions
BT said is also introducing measures to support its ‘most vulnerable customers’, it said today.
For BT landline-only customers, the firm said it was removing out-of-bundle charges for UK landline and mobile calls and was placing a £5-per-month cap on bills.
The UK currently has more than 3,350 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 144 deaths and yesterday Boris Johnson said the UK was approaching the ‘fast growth part of the upward curve’ in the number of cases.
BT said the talks were part of discussions with the Government over how it could aid in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.
BT consumer division chief executive Marc Allera said: ‘Personal and local support is important for every customer, but no more so than our vulnerable customers and their carers – who we are treating as a priority.
‘We have specialist teams trained in how to help customers with physical disabilities, mental health issues and a specialist dementia support team, who are doing their very best to ensure those vulnerable customers in isolation get the support they need.’
Mr Allera added that the firm was confident its network could handle any extra traffic because of an increase in people working from home.
‘We know that working from home won’t generate significantly more traffic across our network than working in the office, even with more video calling and conferencing, HD streaming and now digital homeschooling,’ he said.
BT says it is monitoring how its services are affected by mass home working from millions of self-isolating Britons and has engineers working around the clock to ensure services stay online.
In a statement, BT, which uses the Openreach network, said: ‘Our network is designed to handle a 17Tb/s evening peak in consumer traffic with daytime business use around only a quarter of that – which is why we’re confident of being able to support mass-scale home working in response to COVID-19.’
It comes just hours after mobile networks and internet providers in the UK were urged to relax data limitations.
TalkTalk revealed increased demand of around 20% on Tuesday March 17 following Boris Johnson’s guidance for millions to work from home on Monday. Pictured, data from the same period from Openreach, which BT uses to provide broadband to customers
Internet suppliers are reporting increased data consumption of between 20 and 30 per cent compared to normal working hours as families log on to educational material online, play digital games, stream music, watch films and TV on multiple devices, as well as work from home.
Alex Tofts, Broadband Expert at Broadband Genie, urged network providers to respond to the increased demand by easing restrictions on consumers and lifting any data caps that are in place.
He told MailOnline: ‘One step all providers could take is to relax data limits, both on mobile and home broadband services.
‘It’s especially important for mobile, where data caps are often low and exceeding limits can be expensive.’
His call comes as Netflix announced it would cut down the quality of its streaming services in Europe by 25 per cent for the next 30 days.
The move followed calls by the European Union for online media platforms to stream movies and entertainment in standard rather than high definition to relieve the pressure on internet providers during the coronavirus crisis.
Vodafone reported that internet usage has surged by up to 50 per cent in some European countries.
In the UK network providers are currently offering customers increased data and unlimited access to NHS sites during this period of mass self-isolation.
Many mobile data plans are now unlimited, as are the majority of home broadband subscriptions, which experts say will be sufficient for most people to cope while working from home during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak.
INTERNET USAGE HAS INCREASED IN THE UK
Lebara Mobile told MailOnline that over its network it has actually seen a decline in its mobile internet usage.
TalkTalk, which offers all its customers unlimited data usage, says its daytime network traffic was around 20 per cent higher on Tuesday.
Early indications indicate this was replicated yesterday.
A Vodafone spokesperson told MailOnline internet traffic over both its broadband and mobile services have increased around 30 per cent.
This is driven primarily by users flooding to news sites and video streaming services for video calls,
Virgin Mobile has pledged unlimited minutes and 10GB of extra mobile data to help customers trying to get online as they are urged to work from home.
Vodafone, which offers both broadband and mobile internet, has stated it will give customers unlimited access to NHS UK online websites.
MailOnline understands EE, Three and O2 will also offer free access to the NHS websites.
Broadband providers TalkTalk and Openreach are confident they can meet the increased demand as the system is built to support so-called ‘evening peak’ traffic.
BT said it would keep its more than 600 UK stores open for anyone needing to speak to an expert, and was asking its ‘most important people’ to come in to contact centres to respond to customer queries.
‘We’re asking colleagues to remain vigilant and to protect themselves by strictly following personal hygiene measures,’ he said.
‘We’ve increased the cleaning throughout our stores and call centres. We are building in social distancing wherever possible in our centres, having people sit and work further apart.
‘We’re paying our people fully, even if they need to isolate, giving them the security to make the right decisions for their health and the health of their loved ones. We’ve also placed a travel ban between sites.’