Symmetric digital subscriber line (SDSL) technology is coming into its own as a business service - but companies can face huge differences in prices and services, according to research.
A report by analyst Point Topic found that early predictions of SDSL's popularity may have been overstated, but suggested that the total number of installed lines may top 650,000 worldwide by the end of this year.
SDSL uses standard copper wires to deliver internet connections of up to 3Mbps. This means it can handle equal data flows up and downstream, unlike the consumer equivalent Asymmetric DSL.
"We think SDSL is going to be really important to the mass of small and medium businesses," said the report's author, Tim Johnson.
"It will bring proper business-strength broadband services down to a price they can afford. For example, they will be able support teleworkers much better than before, with direct access to the company network, running Ethernet over SDSL."
The report found wide variation in the costs that businesses pay and in service level agreements (SLAs). For example, a basic 2Mbps connection can cost just £65 per month from QSC in Germany but £846 per month from Cybernet in Switzerland. SLAs also varied enormously and some suppliers were still not offering them.
"We've found demand to be fantastic," said Martin Saunders, head of product marketing at EasyNet UK.
"In the last six months there's been a huge swing to symmetric services. The concept is finally being understood and a lot of companies are switching from leased line.
"As for SLAs, there have been some very dodgy agreements out there. We use our experience to set meaningful SLAs within the constraints of infrastructure."
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