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The Register Guide to ADSL in Britain

Trials and tribulations

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Britain's march towards broadband services is gathering pace. Up and down the country different service providers and their guinea pigs are trialling Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) technology before rolling out the services commercially later this year. ADSL provides super fast Net access that's always on and charged at a fixed price. Many Net users assume that, with speeds 20 times faster than conventional modems, ADSL will bring an end to the world wide wait - and herald a new age of amazing multimedia services. But, so far, trials have been delayed due to "technical glitches" and some installations have been put on hold. What's more, there's continued scepticism among some ISPs that contention ratios are too high, which could slow services down to a crawl. And although few will admit it publicly, the relationship between BT and some of the service providers has not always been wholly amicable. That aside, by the end of March 2000, BT will - it says - have installed ADSL kit in 400 of its exchanges across Britain and kitted out a further 100 by summer 2000. Combined, this investment in ADSL technology will cover 35 per cent of Britain's population, enabling 8.5 million homes and businesses to join the broadband revolution. The exchanges upgraded to handle ADSL include: Aylesbury, Birmingham, Belfast, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes and Newcastle, although many more are earmarked to be upgraded. During summer 2000 BT plans to provide additional exchanges up and down the country. So what's on offer? BT, the monster telco, is providing ADSL as a wholesale service from its own exchanges - well, at least until the local loop is unbundled in July 2001. Until then it is up to service providers to offer the service to consumers and businesses using BT's ADSL services. Final pricings for these services have yet to be released. The four core products on offer are: BT DataStream Aimed at service providers and other operators who want to develop their own IP transport services over BT's core ATM network. It is suitable for ISPs with at least 150 users. BT IPStream Aimed at service providers who want to provide access to their content and applications. Unlike BT DataStream, it includes the IP layer. It carries no end user restrictions. BT Highway Essentially the same as BT IPStream, but allows organisations to connect remote workers or satellite offices to the Corporate Intranet. BT VideoStream Aimed at service providers who want to deliver high volume, mass-market video-based interactive applications on demand to the TV. Although some 30 service providers are currently trialling ADSL - or have signalled their interest to trial the technology - two thirds of them have asked not to be named. Listed below are just some of those currently experimenting with ADSL. The list isn't comprehensive or complete, but it does give an indication about what's happening among providers. If you represent a service provider and fancy being included in the list - or would like to update your entry - please send the details to Tim Richardson, here at The Register. The ADSL players -- well, some of them at least AOL UK Trialling ADSL among employees but hoping to extend this to customers "imminently". Had hoped to offer ADSL services sooner but claims the timetable has slipped somewhat. Most likely to offer DataStream product. Hopes to launch full service late summer/early autumn 2000. Looking to engage in partnerships with other content providers, but to be honest, content is one thing AOL isn't short of. No pricing information available yet. BT Plans to offer business ADSL services by the end of June 2000 swiftly followed by a retail option. The business service will be more fully featured with different speeds to the home service, which is initially fixed at 512Kbps. The business service will be available at speeds of up to 2Mbps, which is up to 40 times faster than current modems. No price announcements as yet. Concentric Has 50 places available on its business trial and 25 on its domestic trial. The trials are free to users, although the company expects prices for the product to start form £50 a month once it becomes available commercially. Plans to offer service from 1 July 2000. Claims its parent company's expertise in DSL (Concentric has 20 per cent of DSL SME market in the US) puts it at an advantage. Currently working on a number of content deals. Demon Internet Servicing 500 users as part of BT's ADSL trials although not all are up and running yet. The trial is extensive and taking place in 13 towns and cites throughout the UK. Demon is offering IPStream for home users or Datastream for business users. The trial is being offered at 2Mbps downstream and 256Kbps upstream. The trial reportedly started January 2000 and was expected to go on until March 2000, although it seems this now well behind schedule. Triallists pay £35 a month (plus VAT) during the trial. Demon said that upon completion of the trial, it will offer participants three months service free of charge. Freeserve Officially launched its ADSL trial in February 2000 - three months later than scheduled. 150 people taking part in Manchester and London. Full service to be rolled out in summer 2000. Content providers include ITN, Virgin Records and @Jakarta, although others are in the pipeline. Trial price is £49.99 for 512Kbps access. Madasafish This Scottish-based youth/lifestyle-oriented service has already received 800 applications even though there are only 100 places available on its trial. The company hopes to finalise the names of those taking part by the end of March 2000. Those who aren't picked may receive a blessing in disguise - the company is looking to charge £120-150 per month for the service, although a spokesman did say the fee was "open to negotiation". Nildram Buckinghamshire-based service provider starts taking online orders for ADSL from 1 April 2000, and telephone orders from 1 May, for installation during June 2000. No pricing information available. Telewest Better known as a cableco, currently involved in an ADSL trial in the Croydon area for businesses and consumers. The trial was launched in February 2000 and the cableco is looking at ADSL as a way to expand its customer base outside its franchise areas. UUNet Trialling BT's Datastream product, looking specifically to target the business sector. Trial will continue during Q2 and Q3 2000. Aiming to roll out product for business users Q4 2000. No pricing information available as yet. Videonetwork With a fully commercial offering already in operation, VideoNetworks is in a unique position in that it is not trialling the ADSL service. Instead, it will be one of the few service providers to offer ADSL once the kit is installed and ready to go. The reason for its apparent keenness is that it's been working on the technology and service for the last eight years. Prices for its video-on-demand service range between £5.99 and £12.99. Internet access costs have yet to be released. Installation costs £40 but the set top box is free. ® Related Story The Register Guide to Flat Fee ISPs

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