BT has announced the immediate start of its long-awaited DSL trials in London. Covering twenty telephone exchanges in the north and west of the city, the trials provide permanent VPN (virtual private network) or Internet access at either 384Kbps or 2Mbps over ordinary telephone wiring. The return speed is 256kbps, in all circumstances. The trials are the first example of BT's new Interactive Services Network, and will run until March 1999 with a maximum of 2000 lines being provided.
The services cost between £165 and £420 per line per month, with the Internet services being provided through third-party ISPs: currently, these include Virgin.net, i-way and BT Interactive. Other companies such as VideoNet are providing video on demand, shopping, banking and information services, while BT sees the VPN service providing remote access, teleworking and site-to-site links. Equipment is being provided by Alcatel , Fujitsu and Westell, with an Ethernet router at the consumer end.
The company stresses that the technology itself is proven and is not the focus of the trial, which is more aimed at examining support, infrastructure and usability concerns. In time, BT says, DSL will be integrated into its Highway range of consumer and business connectivity services alongside ISDN.
Initial reaction from users was cautiously positive, with some pointing out that equivalent services in the US are priced much lower, in some cases up to ten times less. Pricing for any final services post-trial has not yet been set.
IP Service Access Speed Trial participation charge* IP VPN - 2Mbps / 256Kbps £250 per line per month
IP VPN - 384Kbps / 256Kbps £165 per line per month
Internet Direct - 2Mbps / 256Kbps £420 per line per month
Internet Direct - 384Kbps / 256Kbps £210 per line per month
* minimum commitment 2 months