BT extends budget business broadband

More exchanges across London and the West Midlands will be enabled for SDSL next month, offering an alternative to leased lines

BT is to significantly expand the reach of its SDSL (symmetric digital subscriber line) broadband network in London and the West Midlands beginning in early January, the telco said on Thursday, giving more small businesses a cheaper alternative to leased lines.

BT Wholesale will enable another 50 exchanges to handle SDSL over the course of next month, following its commercial launch of SDSL services in September. At that time, BT said it was planning to enable another 50 exchanges but has only now specified the locations, based on its analysis of the market, including feedback from service providers.

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.

"SDSL has proved particularly popular with SMEs (small and medium enterprises)," said BT Wholesale director of products Bruce Stanford in a statement.

The exchanges are mostly located in Greater London, with 14 of the total located across the West Midlands, BT said. Activation will begin on 9 January, with West Midlands sites beginning to come online on 16 January, and the rollout finishing on 29 January.

BT offers four wholesale SDSL packages, with the cheapest running at 256Kbps, and the fastest at 2Mbps, and annual costs range from £1,440 to £3,000 -- although retail costs will be higher once ISPs factor in their own costs and profit margins.

Industry observers have pointed out that SDSL could eat into BT's lucrative leased-line business, but suggested if the incumbent doesn't launch symmetric services, other companies will.

Graeme Wearden contributed to this report.