Users may put off signing up to fast internet services based on ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line) until next July, when BT will be forced to release its control of the "last mile link" of its network.
With the unbundling of the local loop, BT will have to open up its local phone exchanges to those companies wanting to offer services direct to users.
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One company planning to take advantage of this opportunity is Easynet which has launched a cut-price ADSL high-speed internet service.
Aimed at the business market, Easynet's expansion into ADSL services depends on BT opening up its exchanges by July 2001.
Customers wanting to take advantage of Easynet's service will not be able to do so before this date, despite a European Commission ruling earlier in the month, which said incumbent operators like BT should unbundle by January 2001.
Prices for the EasyDSL service start at £79 per month (excluding VAT and installation) for the 512 kilobit per second (kbps)/256kbps circuit and rise to £119 per month for 2 megabit per second/256kbps.
With the promise of more attractive prices than BT for the ADSL service, businesses may be encouraged to wait until next July to adopt ADSL rather than be trapped into 12-month contracts with BT, at higher costs for no increase in speed and access for fewer users.
EasyDSL will initially be available in Birmingham, Belfast, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes and Newcastle upon Tyne. More locations will be added on an ongoing basis, said Easynet.
Other suppliers are expected to offer similar packages to business over the coming months. Some of these firms had complained to telecoms regulator Oftel about the wholesale prices currently being charged by BT for its ADSL services. These companies will re-badge the service as their own until July 2001.
Oftel has accepted BT's arguments about the difficulties of overcoming technical obstacles in sharing exchanges with companies.
BT has already had to delay its ADSL service to domestic users after claiming that ISPs which wanted to resell it as their own weren't ready.
Easynet's EasyDSL vs BT's ADSL service