Superfast DSL hits the (metropolitan) streets

Easynet has launched its promised 8mbps broadband service, together with a Symmetric DSL service for high upstream data rates

UK Internet service provider Easynet has launched a high-speed service for business customers that runs at up to ADSL's full 8mbps over their telephone connection.

Costing £3,588 per year -- the equivalent of £299 a month -- the service is available to most of Easynet's metropolitan customers within 2km of the equipped exchanges. Easynet is also offering a slower variant at £2,388 a year for 4mbps.

A second service gives businesses a symmetrical connection, with the same bandwidth sending as receiving it. This SHDSL service will be available at a variety of speeds from 512kbps to 2mbps, said the company in a statement. One of the main benefits of SHDSL is that with the addition of a fixed IP address, companies can host Web servers from their premises.

While this is possible with Asymmetric DSL (ADSL), the slower upstream speeds significantly affect the number of Web pages that can be delivered, and is particularly unsuitable for any sort of media streaming -- even with the company's new 8mbps DSL service, the upstream link is limited to 768kbps.

Both services have been enabled by Easynet installing its own DSL equipment -- DSLAMs, or DSL Access Multiplexer -- in BT's exchanges.

Using its own DSLAMs enables Easynet to get around two problems with normal DSL services. First, with ADSL, the speed at which data is sent out to the Internet (the upstream speed) is much lower than the speed at which it is received (the downstream speed). And second, downstream speeds are often much lower than quoted speeds anyway, because most services bundle many customers (up to 20 for business services and up to 50 for home customers) on a single DSLAM.

Many early adopters have seen the effect of the contention ratio as more people in their neighbourhood have signed up to ADSL, thereby increasing the ratio on a particular DSLAM and degrading the service. The product manager at Easynet, Martin Saunders, said that the company provided 100mbps pipes to each exchange and would increase that if utilisation went over 50 percent. "Our national network is running at 80 gigabits per second," he said, "so there won't be a problem."

The company currently has equipment in 20 exchanges, and plans to have equipment in over 100 exchanges by the end of 2002. So far, a number of metro areas including Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham and central London have the new high-speed services.

Speaking at ISPCON in February, Easynet product marketing manager Justin Fielder said the services were enabled by local loop unbundling. "When we get local-loop unbundling we have control over everything except the copper," he said, adding that the company has 32mbps DSL running in its labs.

Find out what ADSL services are available in your town, check prices of best broadband deals for business and home, as well as the latest headlines, at ZDNet UK's ADSL News Section.

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