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RealTime IT News

UK Gets ADSL To The Home

British Telecommunications is taking advantage of its monopoly of high-speed copper-based Internet access to provide asymmetrical digital subscriber line (ADSL) service to residential users and enhanced speeds for business users Tuesday.

BTopenworld, the Internet service provider (ISP) arm of United Kingdoms-based BT, is offering up to 500Kbps upstream speeds (with 250Kbps downstream speeds) for 150 Pounds a month. This marks the home user's first experience with copper-based broadband Internet service.

Users will still pay a "metered" price for voice phone calls over the DSL line.

Business users can sign up for 1Mbps and 2Mbps speeds, a business portal and 10 e-mail addresses for 159.99 Pounds a month, with a one-time installation fee of 260 Pounds. Users can upgrade from the current 500Mbps speed service.

Ben Andradi, BTopenworld president and chief operating officer, said the residential service marks the beginning of a new Internet era.

"BTopenworld is the UK's first ISP to launch a mass market consumer broadband Internet service based on ADSL tehnology," Andradi said. It marks the end of the talk about Broadband Britain and the start of the reality - a new era for the Internet. We are working with our network providers and suppliers to ensure customers are connected as quickly as possible."

The standard 150 pound installation fee has been waived for customers who signed up for ADSL service on BTopenworld's web site before June 30, 2000. Officials will start making calls to the first 100,000 customers Tuesday and start the setup process for those who are close enough to the 516 DSL-enabled central offices. BTopenworld claims nearly 35 percent of the UK falls in that category.

BTopenworld is also ramping up its content for the expected consumer onslaught. The ISP has made partnerships with U.S. and British companies like ZDNetUK, Mapquest, PeopleBank, British Airways Travel Shops and Yell.com in hopes to keep the customers it acquires. More than likely, ExciteUK will be the consumer portal; BTopenworld is a venture investor in the popular portal.

"Unlike some other leading service providers, we have a portfolio of broadband services offering customers a choice of speed, price and content - all backed up by excellent customer service and support," Andradi said.

"But we won't be stopping there - we are planning later this year to introduce our Personal Openworld Portal. This will offer access to your own personalized portal via multiple devices such as TV, mobile phone and personal computer, so that wherever you are you will be able to access your personalized content and send and retrieve information at high speeds," he said.

BT enjoys a profitable monopoly in the DSL arena. Attempts to unbundle the local loop have only lately met with success, at the increased urging of UK consumers and carriers.

Britain's Office of Telecommunications, an industry "watchdog" created by the British government, has ordered BT to unbundle the local loop in 2001. BT maintains technical issues remain to be worked out and its network will be unable to support the technology needed for other carriers until June, 2002.

Meanwhile, the telco continues its 20,000-kilometer, 32 million Pound next-generation network expansion throughout Europe. Five new countries will be added to the existing seven. Officials expect the network expansion to be completed by the end of 2001.

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