Bell Atlantic Corp. last week rounded out thehigh-speed-data picture among major telcos with its announcement of plans to begin what itdescribed as a consumer-oriented service in three cities in September.
The carrier, which was the first to test ADSL(asymmetrical-digital-subscriber-line) technology, was the last among major telcos tocommit to commercial launches. It outlined plans calling for nearly 2 million lines to beequipped with the service capability by year's end, with that total reaching 7.1million by the end of 1999.
Cities slated for September launch are Washington, D.C.;Philadelphia; and Pittsburgh, with the Hudson River waterfront communities of New Jerseyset for an October rollout. The New York and Boston areas will be brought online nextyear, with other targeted cities to be named later.
"We're focusing on providing service incommunities [within the metro areas] where there is a high concentration of Internetusers," said Bell Atlantic spokesman Larry Plumb.
Bell Atlantic's pricing plan -- which is on a par withthe most aggressive consumer-oriented plans of other telcos -- is based on a tariffedaccess rate that will be available to all Internet-service providers, including thecarrier's ISP, Bell Atlantic.net.
The telco's lowest-priced service will cost $39.95 permonth ($69.95 for Bell Atlantic.net customers) for 640-kilobit-per-seconddownstream/90-kbps upstream service. Faster service will range from $109.95 to $189.95 permonth for those using the telco's ISP, at downstream speeds ranging from 1.6 megabitsper second to 7.1 mbps (see chart).
Through an unspecified introductory period, the telco willcharge customers $99 for the one-time connection fee. Customers taking the service fromBell Atlantic.net will also get a price break on modems and installation, paying about$100 for the modems and nothing for additional premises wiring or technical assistance.Westell Technologies Inc. will provide the modems.
Bell Atlantic anticipated that the service will beavailable over 60 percent to 70 percent of the lines served by central offices equippedwith ADSL gear,
"Over time, we expect this to evolve to in excess of80 percent," Plumb said.
Such coverage levels are made feasible by BellAtlantic's move to equip its optical digital-loop-carrier remote terminals with ADSLline cards, marking the first instance of the use of ADSL in DLC terminals.
"ADSL, in general, fits in very nicely with our fiberstrategy," said Jeff Waldhuter, executive director for technology and engineering atBell Atlantic.
Bell Atlantic has been one of the most aggressive telcos asfar as deployment of so-called next-generation DLCs, which extend fiber into service areasbeyond the central-office switch. Because copper lines extending from DLC terminals tendto be shorter and in better condition than central office-based copper wires, ADSL servicewill be faster and more expansive in these newer areas, Waldhuter added.
DSC Communications Corp., the supplier of DLCs to BellAtlantic, has committed to providing ADSL-compatible line cards that can be inserted inits remote terminals in time for the September launches, said Terry Adams, spokesman forDSC. Other manufacturers have said that they will roll out DLC-friendly ADSL solutionsstarting this fall.
Bell Atlantic is starting out with ADSL technologythat's incompatible with the emerging "ADSL.Lite" standard underdevelopment through the ad hoc Universal ADSL Working Group. But the company will switchto ADSL.Lite as it becomes available, said Waldhuter, Bell Atlantic's representativeon the UAWG.
"We have a very strong [ADSL.Lite] document at thispoint," he said, adding that the telco will begin field trials of the new system inlate 1998.
ADSL.Lite -- operating at 1.5 mbps or slower, depending online conditions -- is aimed at eliminating the need for installing a line connectionbetween the telephone-drop line and the user's computer, while increasing thepercentage of copper-loop lines that can be used to deliver the service.
"Our goal is to reach a very strong majority of homes,even if it means sacrificing some speed," Waldhuter said.