BT plans faster internet access

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The Independent Online
BRITISH TELECOM is planning to bring the information superhighway to every home in the country as part of a high-speed telecom service it launched yesterday.

The service, to be called Home Highway, allows information junkies to talk on the phone while surfing the Internet by massively expanding the amount of information that can be carried over a normal phone line.

Afshin Mohebbi, managing director of BT's business division, predicted that the service would be available in the majority of UK homes within the next five years. "It is not for the technically gifted but for the mass market," he said.

However, observers criticised BT for the high price it is charging for the service. The company plans to charge pounds 27 per month for line rental - three times more than the rental charge for a normal phone line. Users will also have to pay more than pounds 100 to have the service installed.

Highway is based on a technology which converts copper wires to carry digital signals, allowing them to transport much more information.

The service is aimed at the growing number of people who work from home and need a fast connection to the Internet or their companies' computers. BT is also launching a Business Highway service aimed at small businesses.

The technology will allow users to access the Internet at a speed of 128 Kilobits per second - twice the speed available with the fastest conventional modem. Crucially, however, the service will allow users to make and receive telephone calls even while they are online.

But industry experts questioned whether BT's offering was fast enough. Cable & Wireless Communications, the cable operator, plans to launch a service next year that will give customers access to the Internet from their TVs at speeds up to 20 times faster than the fastest modem.

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