Superfast ADSL planned for metro areas

Easynet has big plans for UK cities, including 8mbps ADSL in the near future and a follow-up that could include 32mbps broadband services. But it won't come cheap

ISP Easynet is planning to roll out ADSL services in metro areas that will provide 4 megabits per second (mbps), 8mbps and even faster connections.

To avoid the slowdown caused by high contention ratios -- connecting many customers to the same equipment in the exchange so they have to share bandwidth -- Easynet is deploying new exchange equipment that lets it reduce contention ratios or remove contention altogether.

Such a service will cost, however, and customers are likely to be charged extra for lower contention ratios, said Easynet director of product marketing Justin Fielder, speaking at ISPCON Europe 2002 in London on Tuesday.

"Because we operate mainly in metro areas where copper (telephone lines between the exchange the customer) is shorter, we are able to achieve these speeds," said Fielder. Easynet is able to offer the high speeds because of local-loop unbundling, said Fielder.

"When we get local-loop unbundling we have control over everything except the copper," Fielder said. "Our DSLAM lets you change the contention ratio, and business customers will pay to get away from the 20:1 ratio they are on now." It is not uncommon for consumers to have a 50:1 contention ratio, but prices for lower ratios are likely to be too high to attract more consumers.

For businesses willing to pay, however, Easynet is also offering the promise of bundling ADSL lines together. "We have 32mbps ADSL running in our lab," said Fielder.

Although Easynet currently has equipment in ten exchanges, another 100 are planned within the next 12 months, giving Easynet one-tenth the reach of BT. Rollout will depend on demand, he added, with costs reaching £200,000 per exchange. "Demand-led rollout is the key to minimising capital expenditure."

Matt Loney reported from ISPCON Europe 2002 in London.

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