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BT expands budget broadband for businesses

British Telecommunications is expanding the reach of SDSL, a popular form of high-speed Internet access for businesses, giving more small U.K. companies a cheaper alternative to leased lines.

British Telecommunications said Thursday that it is expanding the reach of a popular form of high-speed Internet access for businesses, giving more small U.K. companies a cheaper alternative to leased lines.

Beginning in early January, the British telecom giant will offer its SDSL (symmetric digital subscriber line) broadband network in London and the West Midlands. BT Wholesale will enable another 50 telephone switch offices to handle SDSL over the course of next month, following its commercial launch of SDSL services in September. At that time, BT said it was planning to enable another 50, but has only now specified the locations, based on its analysis of the market, including feedback from service providers.

As a symmetrical broadband service, SDSL offers the same bandwidth both upstream and downstream, making it better than ADSL (asynchronous digital subscriber line) for applications such as videoconferencing, in which large amounts of data are sent both ways. It is also suitable for small branch offices that need to upload customer records and companies that are hosting data.

"SDSL has proved particularly popular with SMEs (small and medium enterprises)," Bruce Stanford, BT Wholesale director of products, said in a statement.

The exchanges are mostly located in Greater London, with 14 of the total located across the West Midlands, BT said. Activation will begin Jan. 9, with West Midlands sites beginning to come online Jan. 16, and the launch finishing Jan. 29.

BT offers four wholesale SDSL packages, with the cheapest running at 256kbps, and the fastest at 2mbps. Annual costs range from $2,480 to $5,167--although retail costs will be higher once Internet service providers factor in their own costs and profit margins.

Industry observers have pointed out that SDSL could eat into BT's lucrative leased-line business, but suggested if the incumbent doesn't launch symmetric services, other companies will.

Matthew Broersma of ZDNet UK reported from London. ZDNet UK's Graeme Wearden contributed to this report.