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Qwest launches aggressive DSL service

At last realizing the fruits of two partnership deals, Qwest Communications International unveils a high-speed Internet service targeted at consumers and small businesses.

At last realizing the fruits of two partnership deals, Qwest Communications International has launched a high-speed Internet service targeted at consumers and small businesses.

Qwest announced today it offers high-speed, or "broadband," digital subscriber line (DSL) in 13 cities under separate previously announced agreements with Covad Communications and Rhythms NetConnections, two upstart competitive data and voice companies in which Qwest has made equity investments.

As part of those partnerships, Qwest plans to make DSL-based Net access technology available in 30 U.S. markets by year end.

DSL allows digital data to travel at high speeds over standard telephone wires, while letting users talk on the phone simultaneously. The technology is one of two primary broadband-access options for consumers, although DSL has made a stronger entrance into the lucrative small- and medium-sized business markets. In addition to fast Internet surfing, DSL is being used to provide multiple phone lines, virtual private networks (VPNs), and remote network access.

By recently agreeing to acquire US West, the telecommunications carrier will soon compete with a group of start-ups--a group that includes Covad, Rhythms, and NorthPoint Communications, among others--in the race for high-speed Internet access.

Qwest primarily sought US West for its large local telephone networks, which will give Qwest an "end-to-end" local and national network. But by acquiring the local telephone giant, Qwest also is poised to be a formidable player in the DSL arena.

Although several of the large local phone companies are coy about their DSL deployment numbers, many industry analysts believe US West has more DSL customers than any other provider in the nation. US West has more than 50,000 DSL customers in its 14-state region.

The company also has plans to offer DSL in 25 markets outside its geographic territory once its merger with Qwest is complete, which could pit Qwest against its youthful partners.

Covad and Rhythms, which went public earlier this year, have plans to offer service in dozens of cities nationwide by the end of 1999.