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BT to use Ericsson technology for fast Net home use

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BT is taking advantage of technology developed by Ericsson to offer BT Highway, a new digital communication service targeted at home and small business Internet users. Ericsson's Eristream allows users to have two digital lines over a single copper circuit. This allows one line to be used for data and the other for voice, with a new telephone number being assigned for the second line. Alternatively, both lines could be used with an ISDN adaptor or terminal adaptor to give 128 kilobits/second. BT is Ericsson's first telecom company customer for the technology, which is being provided in association with Marconi Communications. A four-way splitting device turns the copper line into four connection ports -- two analog and two digital. BT has an ambitious plan "to link BT Highway to every household in the UK in five years," according to Afshin Mohebbi, managing director of BT's business division. The service will be available from mid-September. The problem is that less than 10 per cent of UK homes use the Internet at present, and although this is forecast to increase to 40 per cent by 2005, the plan seems unrealistic. BT is conducting trials with Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) Lite services that offer connections at several megabits/second. DSL is expected to be targeted at business users initially. Cynics see the BT Highway move as a pre-emptive strike by BT against cable operators, and a holding move until DSL moves down to the home user. It remains to be seen whether BT will be challenged on fair competition grounds because of cross-subsidisation. BT does not disclose its detailed accounting for individual services, which has resulted in the past in accusations of unfair competition from rivals that do not have the advantage of BT's infrastructure. ®

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