Big BT boost for web access

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The Independent Online
THE WORLD wide wait that characterises the experience of most world wide web users will soon be a distant memory.

From autumn, British Telecom will begin rolling out a new technology called asymmetric digital subscriber line, or ADSL, to households and businesses within the M25 and in Britain's nine largest cities.

In an unusual departure, BT will act as a wholesaler, leaving companies such as Microsoft, AOL and VirginNet to organise content and market ADSL. Wholesale prices will range from pounds 40 a month for 500 kilobit per second access - 10 times faster than modem access - to pounds 150 a month for 2 megabit per second.

This will finally make services such as on-line shopping, interactive game playing and movies-on-demand an everyday reality for British households. BT expects leisure users to opt for the lower speed service and home- based workers to use the higher speed service to access internal corporate networks with the ease of office-based workers.

"This roll-out plan is a major step towards making Britain a world leader in the information revolution," said Sir Peter Bonfield, BT chief executive. "By committing to a large scale roll-out, BT will play a vital part in stimulating a competitive mass-market for consumers as well as businesses of all sizes."

The new technology will be available to one million homes by the autumn and six million by next spring. Over the following three years, the telecoms giant expects to bring the service to about three-quarters of British households.

BT is committing pounds 250m to the early stages of launching ADSL, though the bill for extending the service nationwide will be in the billions.