Only a tiny percentage of users will be able to enjoy the high speeds promised by next generation broadband services in the UK, warned a new report.
So-called ADSL2+ is being sold as the next stage for the net, delivering speeds of up to 24 megabits per second. But just 5% of the population will be able to receive even 18Mb according to broadband market research group Point Topic.
Over half of the population will have speeds of no more than 8Mb, it said. The speed end-users will get depends on how far they live from their local telephone exchange.
Full speed ahead
The problems lie in the length of the copper loop between the telephone exchange and peoples' homes.
"24Mb is achievable within 300 metres of the exchange so basically you can get those speeds if you happen to live next door to a telephone exchange," said Oliver Johnson, marketing director at Point Topic.
While people in countries such as France and Italy are already enjoying super-speed broadband, the UK has been slower to develop its high-speed market.
In Italy the issues of distance are less of a problem due to the fact that the local loop - the last bit of the telephone wire running between exchange and home - are shorter.
There are also more telephone exchanges and more densely packed residential areas, explained Tim Johnson, chief executive of Point Topic.
A flurry of UK Internet service providers are now trialling ADSL2+ and promoting its ability to deliver speeds of up to 24Mb.
But in fact, 8Mb could well be sufficient for most people's needs and will be enough to deliver the whizzier services promised by next generation broadband, such as broadband TV, said Mr Johnson.
"Is the talk about 24 megabits just marketing hype? I think that it is and that 8Mb will be good enough, at least in the short term," he said.
A handful of providers have loosened their ties with BT to provide so-called unbundled services - which requires them to install their own equipment in BT's exchanges - and they are already offering 8Mb to customers.