Some small businesses will soon be able to get a high-speed two-way broadband connection without the expense of a leased line, with BT planning a wider rollout of its SDSL network.
BT announced on Tuesday that it is now offering SDSL services commercially, after a trial lasting nearly a year.
The technology will initially be available from 100 local telephone exchanges in London, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Yorkshire, where the trial took place. BT is planning to upgrade another 50 exchanges to support SDSL by January next year.
As a symmetrical broadband service, SDSL offers the same bandwidth both upstream and downstream, making it better than ADSL for applications such as video-conferencing, where large amounts of data are sent both ways. It is also suitable for small branch offices that need to upload customer records and firms that are hosting data.
BT is making four wholesale SDSL packages available. The cheapest runs at 256Kbps, and the fastest at 2Mbps, with annual costs ranging from £1,440 to £3,000 -- although retail costs will be higher once ISPs factor in their own costs and profit margins.
According to Bruce Stanford, director of products at BT Wholesale, this launch "strengthens the portfolio of business-class broadband products that service providers can offer to their customers."
"Demand is expected to be strong as SMEs can gain real competitive advantage from using this broadband capability, in addition to the range of ADSL services that have been in the market for several years," Stanford added.
BT's SDSL launch was one topic of conversation at the Broadband World Forum in London, with some industry watchers pointing out that SDSL could eat into BT's lucrative leased line business.
Other commentators pointed out that if the incumbent telco doesn't launch such services, other companies will do so.
"If they don't want someone else to eat their lunch they'll have to eat it themselves," said Tim Johnson, founder of research group Point Topic.