DIY broadband the 'only hope' for UK home users

Telco believes customers are prepared to spend hours on the phone to technical support, rather than paying an engineer to install ADSL for them

Self-installation broadband products are the only way that most UK consumers will get access to high-speed home Internet services, according to industry experts at the Last Mile Europe conference in London on Tuesday.

Justin Fielder, local loop unbundling manager at Easynet, believes that it will never make economic sense for home users to pay for an engineer to visit their home to install ADSL. "Business users don't mind paying £500 for someone to roll up to their office and install broadband, because it saves them the bother of digging out the manual and trying to do it themselves," said Fielder. "Home users, though, are prepared to be on the phone for hours getting it to work," he said.

"It's the only way that consumer broadband makes business sense," Fielder insisted.

BT recently developed a DIY ADSL product, which can be posted directly to a customer. As this does not require an engineer's visit, customers avoid paying up to £150, although they still have to buy their own ADSL modem. Alcatel chairman Dr Peter Radley told ZDNet UK News earlier this week that the price of ADSL modems will fall substantially once demand increases.

The support of a company such as Easynet -- which will compete with BT Wholesale by unbundling the local loop -- is crucial if DIY ADSL is to succeed. Trials of DIY ADSL are currently being carried out by ISPs such as Iomart and Zen Internet, and a commercial launch is timetabled for January 2002. It will also cost £5 per month less than today's ADSL services in addition to the saving made by not having an engineer visit, but users must stil pay a £50 fee to cover engineering work at the local exchange.

The cost of buying an ADSL modem is offset by the fact that customers needn't take time off work to await the call of the engineer. According to Matt Peacock, chief communications officer of AOL UK, this can be an exercise in time-wasting. "One senior executive of a major US bank -- which was seriously overexposed in its investment in a DSL supplier -- had to take 101 hours off work waiting for his DSL connection to be installed," said Peacock.

See the Broadband News Section for the latest on cable modems, ADSL, satellite and other high-speed access technologies.

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