1Mbps ADSL gets lift-off

BT has responded to pressure from ISPs and launched a wholesale 1Mbps broadband product, but those who are based too far from their local exchange will miss out

Almost two-thirds of the UK population now have the option of getting one-megabit-per-second broadband down their phone line, after BT confirmed on Wednesday that it will launch a faster wholesale ADSL product.

The announcement, which follows a successful trial of the service, will allow UK ISPs to sell 1Mbps broadband for less than £35 per month including VAT. Customers who want to upgrade from a 512Kbps service must also pay a £35 connection fee, while new ADSL users will be charged £50 -- charges that some ISPs may decide to subsidise.

According to BT, the 1Mbps service has been launched because of strong demand from ISPs. Some service providers are understood to have been concerned they might be losing customers to cable companies who have offered 1Mbps or faster Internet access for some time.

"We began trials of the new, faster 1Mbps service on October 6, and it became immediately apparent that there is strong consumer demand for it," said Bruce Stanford, director of products for BT Wholesale Markets, in a statement. "We've had more than 4,000 orders in less than three weeks from more than 50 ISPs, which is well ahead of expectations and has helped us move swiftly to a full launch."

Unlike the 512Kbps service that is used by well over one million customers, the1Mbps service is not rate-adaptive. This technical limitation means that the service won't be available to households or companies more than 4km from their local exchange. BT says that this will affect about one-fifth of people who are connected to BT's ADSL network, which covers some 80 percent of the population.

A BT spokesman told ZDNet UK that it isn't currently possible to extend the 1Mbps downstream link beyond around 4km without serious deterioration to the speed of the 256Kbps upstream link.