RealTime IT News

NTT Companies Launch Flat-Rate Net Access Trials

For a few thousand lucky users living in the right areas of Tokyo and Osaka, flat-rate Internet connectivity will soon be a reality.

Nippon Telegraph and Telephone's two local loop regional carriers, NTT East and NTT West, this week jointly announced that they will start trial operation of a flat-rate Internet access service on November 1.

However, only ISDN (integrated services digital network) subscribers -- users of NTT's INS-net 64 or INS-net 1500 ISDN lines -- will be able to take advantage of the new IP Connection Service.

Service trials of the ISDN-based flat-rate connections will be limited to Tokyo's Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Ota wards for NTT East and to Osaka's Chuo and Kita wards and Suita area for NTT West.

For 8,000 yen (US$75.50) per month, trial users will be able to connect with no time limits on usage to any of 28 participating Internet service providers (ISPs) through a single 64K-bps ISDN B channel.

Normal calls -- those to numbers other than a special IP Connection Service number -- placed over the ISDN line will be charged at the normal per-minute rate.

A total of 19 ISPs, including Fujitsu's @nifty, NEC's Biglobe, Internet Initiative Japan's IIJ4U, interQ, KDD's Neweb, and Sony's So-net, have announced that they will participate in both the Tokyo and Osaka trials.

Another seven ISPs, among them PSINet Japan and Justsystem's JustNet, will take part in the Tokyo area trial only, while two others will participate only in the Osaka area trial.

Some of these ISPs have said they will allow users to connect via the IP Connection Service as part of their normal subscription; others are setting up a special category of access accounts for flat-rate usage.

In addition to the 8,000 yen monthly IP Connecion Service fee, users will still have to pay the subscription fee to their ISP -- typically around 2,000 to 3,000 yen (US$18.90 to $28.30) per month..

Special NTT East and NTT West IP Connection Service websites were opened this week to handle online inquiries and applications.

The two firms each expect to sign up 1,000 or more users for the planned year-long service trial.

According to the companies, these IP Connection Service trials are intended "to verify, for example, the performance level of this new IP network transmission technology, the service's influence on our existing network equipment, and customer demand trends."

How quickly the flat-rate IP Connection Service will be expanded to other areas, and at what pricing level, will depend on the trial results -- and on competition..

It was not simply coincidence that, on the same day as the NTT companies' announcement about the launch of their ISDN-based trials, rival KDD also announced that it will join with its KDD Communications subsidiary and Tokyo Metallic Communications to offer a trial DSL (digital subscriber line) flat-rate Internet connectivity service.

Scheduled to start from around mid-November, this DSL trial service would offer high-speed flat-rate Internet access over existing telephone lines for about 6,000 yen (US$56.60) or less.

No details were announced, other than that the partners plan to sign up about 9,000 subscribers in the Tokyo area for service trials that will run through December 2000.

KDD will provide the trunk transmission channels and IP backbone networks.