Easynet has launched the first challenge to BT in wholesale broadband with its 8Mbps LLUStream service.
The new service is aimed at carriers, ISPs and system integrators and the company is already in talks with a clutch of ISPs.
David Rowe, Easynet CEO, said: "You can take it for granted that we wouldn't announce this if we didn't have customers ready." But he did not say how many customers were lined up or name names.
"This does appeal to high volume ISPs and to specialised business ISPs who are concerned with service level guarantees," he continued. "It is much bigger and broader than IPStream [BT's standard product]."
BT Wholesale announced last month it is testing a 2Mbps ADSL service which is expected to become available to all UK ISPs in early 2005. Rowe has high hopes that the regulatory barriers to allowing Easynet to offer ADSL+2 at speeds of up to 18Mbps will be overcome before the end of 2005.
Rowe said: "The conditions are right for a major change. We're moving on to the next wave of broadband which will offer voice, Internet and TV-quality video. There has been industry and regulatory pressure on BT and now is the time for an alternative structure for the UK."
Easynet was a pioneer of LLU (local loop unbundling) and currently has connections in 240 local exchanges, giving it access to 4.4 million homes and 700,000 businesses. Last month UK Online launched Online 8000, an 8Mbps broadband service for £39.99 in selected areas.
UK Online's service is based on Easynet's unbundled pipes and the ISP said it hopes to add voice, TV and video-on-demand next year. Competitor Bulldog is selling a 4Mbps service in central London and parts of South-East England on its own unbundled network, which it is expanding.
Easynet's business broadband services offer speeds of up to 8Mbps which - with service level agreements, multiple IP addresses and a good contention rate - can cost up to £200 per month.
Several major ISPs are considering embracing unbundling, and AOL hopes to begin trials next year.