BT starts trialling 2Mbps broadband

A much quicker broadband service could be on offer from BT early next year, but it's not clear how many people will actually be able to get it

BT is limbering up to launch a broadband service that would be twice as quick as its fastest consumer service today.

The telco is inviting all existing ADSL broadband customers to sign up and test a two megabit-per-second product. If the trial is a success then the service could launch commercially early next year. However, the service -- called IPStream 2000 -- will not be available to every home in the UK. ADSL's technical limitations means the 2Mbps link won't work beyond a certain distance from the local telephone exchange.

BT couldn't say on Monday what proportion of UK homes would miss out because their telephone connection to the local exchange is too long. . BT's 512kbps wholesale product can be accessed by virtually all households, while its 1Mbps service is limited to around 70 percent of the population -- those who live within 6km of the exchange.

If this 2Mbps service does launch then it could help to force down the price of BT's existing wholesale products. There are also no pricing details available.

The trial of IPStream 2000 will begin on 29 November and run for at least eight weeks. The word from BT is that there is no limit on the number of people who can take part, nor do participants need to use BT Retail as their ISP. Any of the one hundred or more ISPs reselling BT's ADSL services can take part.

"As many customers as care to come forward can take part," said a BT Wholesale spokesman on Monday, who added that some ISPs have already been encouraging BT to launch a 2Mbps broadband service.

BT's retail arm is currently testing a device to let customers download television and video down their broadband line. Although technical details of this set-top box aren't available, it will rely on a fast ADSL service such as IPStream 2000, rather than a slower 512kbps service.

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