BT is poised to legitimise frame relay after years of criticising it, by publishing tariffs for the first time.
The move signals a dramatic change in policy for the telco, which regularly and publicly slammed the technology in the past in favour of its SMDS (switched multimegabit data service).
By publishing prices, BT will have its tariffs ratified by telecomms regulator Oftel, and the technology is propelled to a basic telephony service status, rather than a value added service offered on an ad hoc basis.
The frame relay annual rental charges, which will be publicly announced by BT chiefs tomorrow, range from #1,500 for 64Kbps access to #17,500 for 2048Kbps.
Connection charges are an extra #1,500 for 64Kbps, and #3,000 for 128Kbps to 2048Kbps for customers with "suitable line plant", or between #1,500 and #6,295 for those without.
The service, called Framestream, is likely to clash with BT?s existing tariffed broadband data offering, SMDS. BT is the only major European operator offering the technology, which was originally developed by Bellcore in the US. It is used by around 75 companies in the UK.
SMDS is offered at speeds between 0.2Mbps and 25Mbps, at rental charges of #6,000 and #36,000 respectively. Connection charges range between #6,000 and #33,000.
Analysts believe BT is keen to keep SMDS on the market for as long as possible, but its position is being eroded by demand for frame relay. According to the Gartner Group, SMDS revenues will remain flat at well under $1 billion, compared to those for frame relay, which will top $6.1 billion in 2001 from $3.2 billion last year.
Said Neil Rickard, research director at the Gartner Group: ?In the next two years BT will gradually de-emphasise SMDS. It?s a dead technology - it?s not competitive and users are locked in. ATM and frame relay are globally accepted technologies.?
According to the new tariffs, BT has made frame relay cheaper to install although rental is cheaper for SMDS, but frame relay is more attractive at lower speeds. Rickard believes the price differences will narrow over time until SMDS is phased out completely.
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