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ADSL gets East Coast trial

Bell Atlantic will begin a market test of the high-speed data service in its region within six weeks.

PALM SPRINGS, California--Just a day after a similar announcement by Pacific Bell, Bell Atlantic said today that it will begin a market test of high-speed ADSL data communications in its region within six weeks and move to a rollout in a major metropolitan area by this fall.

In making the announcement on the second day of a technology conference here, Bell Atlantic CEO Ray Smith declined to say specifically where the trial of asymmetric digital subscriber line will be conducted. But he narrowed the field to three metropolitan areas: Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Washington.

The fall rollout will take place in Philadelphia, Washington, or Boston, which joins Bell Atlantic's territory through its acquisition of Nynex. Smith would not say how much Bell Atlantic will charge for ADSL, which is faster than ISDN and the phone company's alternative to cable modems.

Bell Atlantic's move was the second major announcement of ADSL service this week. Yesterday, Pacific Bell said it 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.

Smith dubbed 1997 "the Year of ADSL," in honor of the high-speed technology that rivals Integrated Services Digital Network service. He predicted that Ameritech will roll out ADSL in Chicago and that Southwestern Bell will offer the service in San Antonio, as well as Pac Bell's California plans.

But Smith said ISDN will not disappear if phone companies lower its costs. "We put a lot of money into it, so it will have a life of his own," he said. "It will be part of a family of [high-speed Internet access] systems."

ADSL is far easier to work with than ISDN, he said, because it is easier to install, configure, and sell.

Smith outlined Bell Atlantic's strategy, saying that by year's end it would complete building a variable broadband digital network in its territory, including 2.8 million miles of fiber-optic cable.