BT is readying a cut-down ISDN service for multimedia and Internet access which it plans to release into the consumer market early next year. Home Highway will be evaluated for six months in 300 households in the Midlands using technology developed by telecom equipment manufacturers GPT of the UK and Ericsson of Sweden. The service will provide households with the equivalent of an ISDN connection over existing phone lines, giving customers a choice of analogue or digital connections via an "intelligent socket". The intelligent socket allows users to surf the Internet at high speed and receive telephone calls simultaneously. Currently, users with a single analogue line have to disconnect from the Internet to use the phone. Rupert Gavin, managing director of BT's Consumer Division, said: "The aim of the BT Home Highway trial is to assess customers' experience and enjoyment of using the Internet and on-line entertainment services by providing a faster, more affordable and reliable connection to the home." If it is successful, BT plans to launch the service commercially in May. Although tariffs have yet to be confirmed, a spokesman said any commercial rates will be "priced to appeal to the mass market". Asked what effect the service would have on the ISDN market the spokesman said: "This is essentially a cut-down ISDN 2 service. For business users both ISDN 30 and ISDN 2 will remain popular." Last week, PC Week revealed BT's plans for trialling ADSL technology by next year. The spokesman explained: "ADSL is very different from Home Highway. For a start it is much faster, giving download speeds of 2Mb/sec. ADSL is designed for video on demand and other high traffic installations, not just Internet access."
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