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Pac Bell plugs ADSL service

Pacific Bell this fall will roll out its answer to ISDN, an ADSL high-speed service that will provide Net access at 1.5 mbps.

    PALM SPRINGS, California--Pacific Bell will roll out a high-speed data service in September that will provide Net access to telecommuters and home-based businesses at 1.5 mbps, CEO David Dorman said today at a technology conference here.

    The new service will take advantage of a technology called ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line), which is still being tested. The high-speed technology downloads data at 1.5 mbps and uploads information at 384 kbps. Unlike cable modems--one rival high-speed access technology--ADSL operates over existing copper telephone wires. In fact, a single connection into a home can be used for data connections and voice service simultaneously.

    The service will initially be offered mostly in Silicon Valley cities, but will be rolled out through the rest of California in 1998, Dorman told an audience of technology CEOs at a conference sponsored by Upside magazine and the Nasdaq stock exchange.

    Pacific Bell will charge a flat rate of about $100 per month for telecommuters who use their employers' networks for Internet access. Pac Bell also will offer its own Internet access service at an additional, still unspecified cost. The company is likely to charge a flat rate plus time-based fees.

    Subscribers will need to purchase a special ADSL-compatible modem to connect to the high-speed network, a device that Pacific Bell and other regional Bell operating companies have signed with Alcatel to provide. Asked to estimate its cost, Dorman would only indicate it will come in significantly lower than the $2,000-to-$3,000 range that some analysts have predicted.

    That would mean that the initial annual costs for the ADSL service would compare favorably with the $3,600 to $7,200 that a T1 line costs, according to Dorman.

    Pacific Bell intends to encourage users to move to ADSL, partly because of the huge growth opportunity in Net services and partly because it would like to see users move away from Integrated Services Digital Network connections, its existing high-speed service.

    Pacific Bell's ISDN service has grown 300 percent this past year despite the fact that Pacific Bell is not promoting the service. The company would like to see those users move to another service, Dorman said, because state regulators have required Pac Bell to offer ISDN at rates that guarantee it will lose money.

    "Regulation is a barrier preventing innovation and investment that would take place if you were chasing a marketing opportunity," Dorman said. He criticized long distance companies and Intel for intervening in regulatory affairs. "Regulation has inhibited what is necessary to take the Net to the next level."

    Dorman doesn't expect ADSL to kill off ISDN, but he'd like to minimize Pacific Bell's own list of ISDN subscribers.

    He predicted that MFS Communications, an alternative local phone carrier, will soon provide ISDN service in California.