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ADSL arrives in Canada

A Canadian phone company quietly becomes the first telco to roll out a commercial service for high-speed Internet access on phone lines, a milestone for the up-and-coming ADSL technology.

A Canadian telephone company this week has quietly become the first telephone carrier to roll out a commercial service for high-speed Internet access on phone lines, a milestone for the up-and-coming ADSL technology.

SaskTel is offering the service to customers in Canada's Saskatchewan province for $50 a month for unlimited Net access, with a one-time $72 installation fee. The service, dubbed Sympatico High Speed, makes it possible to conduct simultaneous phone conversations and Net connections over a single copper phone line.

The company is teaming up with Westell Technologies, a leading provider of ADSL networks, to offer the service.

"The commercial rollout of ADSL-enabled services will enhance multimedia communications worldwide," Westell President Rob Faw said. The service will transmit data at speeds of up to 7 mbps, allowing large text, graphics, and video files to be downloaded in seconds, Faw added.

ADSL is an alternative to cable modems for high-speed access to the Internet. The technology is being tested in North America by numerous phone companies, including Bell Atlantic, Bell Canada, BT, GTE, Nynex, and US West, among others.

ADSL, or asymmetrical digital subscriber line, is also faster than ISDN, which offers midband speeds of up to 128 kbps.

The SaskTel ADSL launch comes as Canadian cable companies are rolling out their own high-speed Net access over cable TV systems. The service is dubbed Wave and will be available for $41 a month for unlimited Net access starting by year's end.

The ADSL-cable modem battle is heating up in the United States, too. @Home, an alliance of Tele-Communications Incorporated, Cox, and Comcast, and Time Warner's Roadrunner are rolling out high-speed access over cable networks throughout the country.

A Chicago-based Internet access provider, InterAccess, is offering limited high-speed Net access using ADSL technology within a three-mile radius in the downtown area.

By year's end, @Home plans to roll out a companion service, @Work, for workplaces.