BT launches SDSL trial

The trial - which allows faster upload speeds over broadband connections - follows a recent Oftel ruling on the issue, but BT insists the two are not connected

BT announced on Wednesday that it is finally launching a trial of symmetric DSL (SDSL) services that could be used by UK firms as a low-cost alternative to leased lines.

The trial will begin in October with BT offering two wholesale SDSL products from 20 London-based local exchanges. By December, BT plans to have extended the trial to involve 50 local exchanges, in London, Manchester, Leeds and York.

The telco is hoping that up to 20 telcos and ISPs will join in the trial, and sell the two wholesale SDSL products to end-users.

BT had been previously expected to launch an SDSL trial last year, but BT explained on Wednesday that this was cancelled following some technical problems.

An SDSL service is described as "symmetric" because the upload speed -- from end-user to network -- is as fast as the download speed. In contrast, ADSL has a slower upload speed, making it suitable for consumers and businesses that are mostly interested in downloading information.

SDSL services are already available in the UK, from operators who have used local-loop unbundling to offer different services than BT.

BT's two trial products, called BT IPStream Symmetric and BT DataStream Symmetric, both give data transfer rates of up to 2 megabits per second in both directions.

Earlier this year, Thus and Energis complained to Oftel that BT was not offering a wholesale SDSL product. Oftel ruled on 21 June that BT must launch an SDSL trial within 84 days of receiving a request from an operator.

According to BT, though, its SDSL trial has little to do with Oftel's ruling.

"We had been planning an SDSL trial for some time. We were initially hit by delays in equipment supply, and we've also been concentrating our operational resources into ADSL rollout," a BT Wholesale spokesman told ZDNet UK News.

BT, though, has consulted with other operators before launching the trial. "We've spoken to Thus, Energis and others to check that these products are what they want," the BT Wholesale spokesman added.

BT has been accused of adopting a go-slow approach to SDSL in the past because it was concerned that SDSL could take revenue away from its leased-line business.

According to BT, though, SDSL will not damage the leased-line side of its business, which currently generates revenues of £100m per year. "There might be a small amount of overlap, but we think that the leased-line business is still growing. We expect SDSL to be a growth market as well," said BT Wholesale spokesman.

Earlier this week, Oftel proposed that BT made significant reductions to the prices of its leased-line products, which reportedly could cost the telco £10m per year.

BT is thought to be relieved that its SDSL launch was not announced on the same day as Oftel's proposal, as this could have led to speculation that its long-awaited move into SDSL is linked to Oftel's decision to force a reduction in the profitability of its leased-line operations.

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