BTopenworld is to extend the reach of its ADSL "footprint" from the end of this month, opening up broadband to a wider audience.
Currently users wanting high-speed ADSL services have to live within a 3.5km radius of their local exchange, but from the end of July those who choose BTopenworld as their service provider will be able to access broadband from up to 5.5km away. A trial of around 100 users will begin at the end of June.
The ISP hopes to increase its reach from 70 percent of users within ADSL-enabled areas to over 90 percent. Currently BT has ADSL-enabled around 800 exchanges -- enough to cover around half of the population. By September, 60 percent of the UK will have access to ADSL.
The technology is being supplied by BT Ignite. In the past detractors have questioned how closely the network provider works with BT's ISPs. Both Ignite and BTopenworld claim that this new extended reach technology is available to any ISP that wants it.
"Whatever is open to openworld is open to every ISP," said a BT Ignite spokeswoman. A spokesman from BTopenworld added, "It is coming from the network provider who has said go and do with this as you will. BTopenworld is testing it and so can other ISPs."
Back in February, BT Ignite was accused by rivals Freeserve and AOL of offering more connections to BTopenworld than to other ISPs, a matter that Oftel is still investigating. Freeserve claims that it is also using the technology to extend the reach of its ADSL product but unlike BTopenword does not see it as a mass market proposition. "The wholesale price charged by BT [£35] means ADSL cannot be a mass market product for us," said a Freeserve spokeswoman.
For BTopenworld the extended reach product -- which is basically a modem installed in exchanges -- will allow more consumers to get their hands on broadband. Although last month the ISP claimed to be cutting back on consumer services to focus on businesses, a spokesman on Thursday claimed the extended reach product is very much designed for the mass market.
"It was just the current advertising campaign that was aimed more at businesses than consumers," he said.
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