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BellSouth offers ADSL in 30 areas

The firm is joining the ranks of telcos offering the high-speed access over copper phone lines with a rollout beginning in August.

BellSouth joined the growing ranks of telcos offering high-speed ADSL service this week when it announced a 30-market rollout of the high-speed Internet service.

ADSL, or asymmetric digital subscriber line, is a technology for delivering fast Internet access over traditional copper telephone lines while leaving those lines open for phone calls. But because it requires new hardware and an onsite installation, it isn't cheap.

BellSouth will charge between $49.95 and $59.95 per month for combined phone and Internet service, on top of an initial $199.95 equipment charge and a $99.95 installation fee.

BellSouth's rates are comparable to those announced earlier this year by rival GTE. Although GTE charges only $40 per month for the service, BellSouth includes unlimited Internet access, while GTE does not.

America Online is charging a $49.95 monthly rate in its ADSL trials.

ADSL prices are expected to drop once a new technology known as "splitterless" ADSL is adopted. This technology, also known as "ADSL lite," eliminates the need for hardware that splits the phone line into disparate sections for Internet and phone access. Splitterless ADSL is considerably slower, maxing out at 1.5 mbps, compared to fully loaded ADSL's 6-8 mbps.

But because of anticipation that splitterless ADSL will become the standard, companies including BellSouth and GTE are offering today's standard ADSL service at 1.5 mbps for an easier transition to the new technology.

BellSouth plans next year to roll out higher speed ADSL, targeted at business users, that will download at rates between 3 mbps and 7 mbps.

The asymmetric aspect of ADSL refers to the different speeds that information is uploaded and downloaded. BellSouth's current offering will download information to the user at 1.5 mbps and upload from the user at 256 kbps.

BellSouth will offer modems from Alcatel.

Starting in August and through the end of the year, BellSouth will roll out its ADSL service in major metropolitan markets in Louisiana, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, and North Carolina. In 1999, the company will extend service to another 23 markets.