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Pac Bell fires up fast Net access

The telco's ADSL service rollout in 200 California communities is the latest salvo in the battle to gain high-speed market share.

Today's announcement by SBC Communications, the parent company of Pacific Bell, that it is dramatically beefing up access to high-speed digital phone lines in California notches up the high-speed access war.

As reported yesterday, Pac Bell announced today that in July it will begin deploying high-speed access using asymmetrical digital subscriber lines (ADSL), which maximize the potential of regular copper phone lines.

Pac Bell will deploy ADSL in 87 offices serving more than 200 communities in the most populous state, including those in Silicon Valley as well as the major metropolitan areas.

"This broad geographic rollout delivers on our commitment to provide Californians with the speed they need at a competitive price so that they can take greater advantage of the power of the Internet," Jim Callaway, Pacific Bell president of public affairs, said in a statement.

But more to the point, he stressed that Californians have the "greatest number of second phone lines of any state in the country." And that means many residents already have the basic infrastructure in place to take advantage of the technology.

Telecommunications companies that provide ADSL access are in a heated, albeit sometimes slow, war with other providers of high-speed access, especially firms offering access via cable.

With both cable and ADSL, the end user needs sign up for special services and also install equipment, whereas most Internet users simply buy a computer and dial-up modem and plug it into their phone lines. But surfing via modem--even those as fast as 56 kpbs--can still be frustratingly slow, especially for end users and companies wanting to take full advantage of the Internet's multimedia and graphic elements.

Today's announcement bodes well for ADSL, according to John Hunter, a broadband analyst for telecom consultancy TeleChoice.

"Their deployment plan looks pretty promising," Hunter said. "It's all very encouraging. Being in the heart of high tech, it's very exciting."

Hunter said he thinks there will be room for both cable access and ADSL, but that cable would probably dominate in home use and ADSL would dominate in business use.

The pricing options to be offered by Pac Bell are as follows:

  • "Home Pack DSL" includes the ADSL connection and Internet service. Transport speeds start at 384 kpbs. Monthly access starts at $80 (including $59 for ADSL and $30 for dedicated Internet service).

  • "Internet Access Pack DSL" also includes the ADSL connection and Internet service, plus two speed options, up to 384 kbps. The monthly price for business starts at $199, including the $99 ADSL connection and $100 for dedicated Internet service. Service for speeds up to 1.5 mbps starts at $339, including $189 ADSL connection and $150 Internet service.

  • "Office Pack DSL" includes two speed options. The total monthly price for a high-speed corporate network connection is $189 for up to up 1.5 mpbs and $99 for 384 kbps.

    Those options don't include a one-time $125 installation fee as well as setup charges, plus the cost of equipment. Pac Bell will make ADSL equipment available, and pricing will depend on the package purchased.

    Equipment that is necessary to use ADSL includes an ADSL modem, a splitter that divides voice and data traffic on a line, and a Network Interface Card for the computer.

    According to TeleChoice, the North American DSL market is expected to reach an installed base of 110,000 lines this year, 355,000 in 1999, and more than 1 million in 2001.