Superfast broadband to trickle out in U.K.

BT will test 8mbps connections, but only in a limited area, and largely for its own employees.

Graeme Wearden Special to CNET News.com
U.K. telecom giant BT is on track to start testing significantly faster broadband services next month, but only a small fraction of Internet users in Britain will be able to take part.

BT Retail announced Monday that it is engaging in wholesale trials of 8mbps ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) services, but these high speeds will only be made available to its own staff--cutting down the number available to actual consumers.

"The first phase of the trial will be internal, but future information on customer involvement will be issued in the near future," BT Retail said in a statement. A company spokeswoman added that BT Retail expected that more lines will be included in the trials this summer.

BT Wholesale generated significant interest when it announced in February that it was planning to test its ADSL services at speeds up to 8mbps, compared with its current maximum speed of 2mbps. But just 2,000 lines in London and Strathclyde will be tested in the first phase of the trials.

These trials will run for up to 12 weeks, but the rest of the United Kingdom will have to wait until at least the second half of 2005. Even then, many people will live too far from their local exchange and will be stuck with slower speeds.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.