BT suspends business broadband rollout

High prices are blamed for low SDSL take-up, as BT puts exchange upgrades on ice until price cuts kick in

BT has stopped rolling out its business broadband service until at least early 2006, citing lack of demand caused by high prices.

A BT spokeswoman confirmed on Friday that it has stopped upgrading local exchanges to offer SDSL, which is more suitable for small businesses and branch offices than ADSL. "It is because of a lack of take-up," explained the BT spokeswoman. "The feedback from our service providers is that the reason is basically the cost of SDSL."

BT had set itself the target of offering SDSL from 800 local telephone exchanges, mostly in metropolitan and other urban areas. At present, it has upgraded 729 exchanges.

BT hopes that its recent decision to cut wholesale SDSL prices by up to 30 percent will kickstart the SDSL market. If so, these remaining exchanges could then be upgraded.

SDSL, or symmetric DSL, provides a two-way high-speed Internet connection. This makes it more suitable for organisations who want to upload large amounts of data, perhaps because they host Web sites or run an email server used by remote workers.

BT has repeatedly sung SDSL's praises. Earlier this month, the telco said that "symmetric broadband is ideal for business use as it supports applications that require the same upstream and downstream speeds. This allows businesses to benefit from applications such as video conferencing and realise greater efficiencies through fast file transfer."

Some rival telcos, such as Easynet, offer their own SDSL services in competition with BT. But many of those businesses who can't get BT's SDSL service may have to make do with ADSL instead.

"There are other parts of our portfolio which should meet people's needs," said the BT spokeswoman.

Back in 2003, before it officially launched SDSL, BT had admitted that many firms were happy with ADSL, which is now available to over 99 percent of homes and businesses.