Businesses who aren't able to get an ADSL connection will soon be able to sign up to a high-speed satellite Internet connection from BT. However, the service will be more expensive than a standard home broadband link.
The service, due to go live in Scotland and Northern Ireland in October or November, is a partnership with US satellite company Gilat. Targeted at small to medium enterprises and those who run businesses from home, it will be extended to other areas of the UK next year.
Final pricing hasn't been announced, but it is expected to cost around £100 per month. The service will offer download speeds of up to 512kbit/s, and upload speeds of up to 153kbit/s.
BT already offers ADSL, which gives users high speed Internet access down their phone line. However, ADSL is only available for those within 3.5km of a suitable exchange. BT has recently announced that this range will be extended to 5.5km -- using a technology called "Rate Adaption" -- but this still only makes ADSL available to 13 million households, mostly near major cities.
If successful, BT's new service could extend broadband to the more remote parts of the UK. Unfortunately, the price may put off all but the most enthusiastic consumer. The likely £100 per month price tag compares unfavourably with the £39.99 per month cost of BT's ADSL package.
A BTopenworld spokesman was keen to emphasise that the service was not aimed at home users. "We're not going to turn anyone away. However, we're going to make it clear that this is aimed at SoHo (small office and home office) and SME (small to medium-sized enterprises), and priced for that market," he said.
In a statement, BTopenworld said that a recent report from research firm Fletcher Advisory claimed that UK SME's using broadband would be saving around £4.7bn per year by 2005.
Tuesday's Financial Times suggested that the service could be impeded by planning regulations if subscribers found that they weren't allowed to fit more than a certain number of satellites to a building. "We'll be talking to government, both on a national and a local level, to see if any potential planning issues can be resolved," said the BTopenworld spokesman. "The government speaks about the need for broadband, and this service is a way of making it available to those who cannot get ADSL," he added.
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