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Europe to get faster Net

Deregulation of the European telecommunications market means several countries will enjoy high-speed Net access via phone lines next year.

High-speed Net access over phone lines, dubbed ADSL, is poised to take off in Europe, thanks largely to deregulation of the European telecommunications market, according to industry experts who met recently.

British Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, and Telia all are expected to offer ADSL (or asymmetric digital subscriber line) services next year, joining a worldwide trend to roll out the technology.

"We are at the edge of the development of ADSL into a mass market," said Nadine Berezak-Lazarus, analyst for Eutelis Consult, a European market consultant, in a statement. "The liberalization process is a real push for ADSL because service operators can achieve a competitive position solely by offering new broadband and interactive services to the mass market."

ADSL also can provide a major new source of revenue, Berezak-Lazarus added.

A group called the ADSL Forum met recently in Brussels, Belgium, to discuss growth prospects. The group has grown to nearly 300 members from just three founders two years ago, another sign of the interest in the technology. The group includes telephone companies, Internet service providers, and computer executives, as well as industry analysts.

The growth of ADSL in Europe follows a similar pattern in the United States and Asia. In the United States, for example, many Baby Bells plan commercial deployment of ADSL next year.

Since last fall, for example, Bell Atlantic has been holding a DSL (digital subscriber line) market trial in Virginia with about 250 customers, charging them $60 each per month. Users can download data at 1.5 mbps and send at 64 kbps under that trial. The company plans commercial deployment in mid-1998.

The xDSL market is expected to generate $1.5 billion in revenue by 2001 in the United States and $2.9 billion worldwide, according to a recent study by the Pelorus Group. The consulting group also predicted that ISPs may give telcos a run for their money in providing DSL, because of their perceived position as "Internet sources."

UUNet, for example, is rolling out a hybrid of xDSL and ISDN called IDSL. The product is aimed at the business market.