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Thursday, July 29, 1999 Published at 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK

Business: The Company File

BT speeds up Internet

Existing phone lines will be upgraded

High-speed digital lines which could transform Internet use are to be connected to millions of homes and businesses across the UK.

Telecoms firm BT has announced it is to roll out its Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Lines (ADSL) service over the next few months.

Using ADSL technology, existing telephone lines will be able to carry information at between 10 and 40 times the speed of conventional modems.

ADSL will allow Internet users much higher download speeds and that ability to watch high quality television and video through their computer.

Profits up

It said 400 exchanges, covering around six million homes and businesses, will be upgraded by March next year.

Areas due to be converted in the initial phase include London, Glasgow, Belfast, Cardiff, Birmingham, Coventry, Leeds and Edinburgh.

The launch of ADSL was announced as BT revealed a rise in pre-tax profits for the first quarter of 1999 - to £772m from £723m for the same period last year.

BT's mobile phone business grew by 64%, with Cellnet adding another 500,000 subscribers in the three months.

Calls also increased, driven by the growth of the Internet.

BT chief executive Sir Peter Bonfield said ADSL was a "major step" towards making the UK a world leader in the information revolution.

[ image: BT's profits are up for the first quarter of 1999]
BT's profits are up for the first quarter of 1999
He said: "By committing to a large scale roll-out, BT will play a vital part in stimulating a competitive mass market for consumers as well as businesses of all sizes.

"It will drive new information industries and services to the benefit of all."

BT is believed to have been forced to bring in ADSL earlier than it had hoped to due to potential competiton from cable operators, who plan to market high-speed cable modems which use fibre-optic technology to by-pass BT's network.

Cable competition

Cable and Wireless is due to launch its digital service shortly, with other cable companies joining the high-speed access battle.

Earlier this month telecoms watchdog Oftel said it wanted BT to open its network to rivals to upgrade the network where they thought it necessary, without having to rely on BT's own rollout plans.

Earlier this year, Hull-based Kingston Communications began implementing ADSL in its exchanges.

BT has been accused of dragging its feet over the introduction of ADSL because it would take business away from its already highly-profitable Home Highway ISDN lines.

ADSL is added to existing telephone lines by attaching high-tech electronics at local exchanges and in individual homes and businesses.

BT also announced an increase in turnover from £4.23bn to £4.98bn for the quarter.

Internet use accounts for around 15% of all calls on the BT network at presents, but that figure is expected to rise to 25% next year.

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