BT will bring next generation high speed Internet access within reach of nearly six million UK households and businesses by next spring.
BT today announced orders with Alcatel and Fujitsu for asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL) equipment for local exchanges and customers. ADSL boosts data flow down copper phone lines to up to 16 times the speed of ISDN.
Today's announcement comes a day before telecoms watchdog Oftel will release proposals that are expected to force BT to open its local networks to competing operators.
But while BT said it will equip the first 400 exchanges between now and next spring, it refused to talk about what services would be offered, where and how much they will cost. A detailed rollout announcement is expected "shortly," the company said.
"We want the UK to be a world leader in the information revolution, and our rollout programme, which we will announce shortly, will be very aggressive by international standards," said BT chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield in a statement.
BT is expected to offer separate consumer and business services. The consumer service will feature the interactive multimedia content previewed by BT Interactive last year. The business service is likely to rival BT's existing leased line and ISDN products.
Financial details of today's contracts were not disclosed, but BT said the deals are part of its ongoing £5 billion investment in next generation communications. This has so far included its high speed IP network Betanet.
"All the drivers and market demands said they needed something like DSL," said Chris Lewis, analyst at The Yankee Group in the UK. "ISDN has not been the success we would have anticipated due to tariffing."
The problem for BT will be finding a pricing model for its service, said Lewis: "It's fine to say that they have x number of exchanges, but how do they tariff? We as end users have to be able to afford it."
Participants in BT's ADSL trial have been told by BT that a consumer service will launch in September costing a flat rate of £31 per month. However, this does not necessarily mean everyone will pay £31 - BT has previously offered lower rates for trial participants.
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