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.

Alta Vista tried to offer flat-rate Internet

access for users and met with
disaster last week. After signing up 270,000 users and launching a massive
marketing blitz, the California-based company acknowledged it couldn’t
offer unmetered service.

Andy Mitchell, AltaVista UK managing director, blamed BT for the fiasco,
saying in a released statement the telco didn’t make flat-rate circuits
available.

“To date BT has failed to make this possible, and its continuing delays
make it difficult to plan a solution,” Mitchell said.

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