Telecom geared for ADSL launch next week

Telecom will announce the commercial launch of its ADSL service - under the JetStream brand - next week. But some questions remain over how widely available the service will be and who will seek to sell it.

Telecom will announce the commercial launch of its ADSL service - under the JetStream brand - next week.

The launch, set for Thursday next week, marks the culmination of a series of trials that began with ADSL (Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line) in the Wellington suburbs of Khandallah and Ngaio in 1997, and switched to the rate-adaptive digital subscriber line (RADSL) version last year.

Telecom registered the domain name last November and has extended the trial to parts of Auckland.

Trial participants have been paying $30 per month for the hire of the Nokia ADSL modems and $99 for the first 300Mb of data downloaded per month. But it appears that the commercial residential rate may be cheaper than that - possibly as low as $75 for 300Mb or even 600Mb plus 35 cents for each additional megabyte.

For what Telecom says are technical reasons, the ADSL trial has been limited to Xtra Internet customers so far. Several ISPs, including Paradise.Net and Voyager, have expressed interest in offering ADSL services to their customers, but there has been some doubt lately about what, if any, margin Telecom will build into its pricing for ISPs who want to onsell ADSL. As is the case with IPNet, ADSL may prove more viable for Xtra than for anyone else.

One ISP which will definitely not be offering ADSL is Ihug. Director Nick Wood says his company will be further developing its wireless data offerings and promises a "very cheap, very fast" product in August or September.

Another question likely to be answered by the wider rollout is exactly how many residential customers will be able to get ADSL. Customers must be within 3.5km of an ADSL-capable Telecom exchange Telecom currently lists Khandallah , Courtenay Place, Wellington Central and Lower Hutt; and Remuera, Ponsonby, Mayoral Drive and Howick as ADSL-equipped.

Performance will be another factor. On its ADSL Website, Telecom says that "under ideal conditions, ADSL Internet customers will be able to connect to their ISP at download speeds of up to 6Mbit/s," with a return path of about 800Kbit/s, but trial customers have been experiencing download speeds more in the range of 1Mbit/s.

Given that most Internet traffic is offshore, the amount of international bandwidth allocated will have a significant impact on performance.

Local network conditions are also crucial. RADSL equipment monitors the network and can adjust data rates depending on line conditions. DSL transmission can be affected by physical conditions such as heat, moisture, the age of the copper and the number of joints between the customer and the exchange.

But as Telecom's Website notes "whatever data transfer rate you experience, you can be assured it will be a great deal better than the speed you experience with a standard modem under the same conditions." The company is thought to have taken a number of measure to avoid ADSL cannibalising revenues from its more expensive and, in the case of ISDN, far slower, existing data services. It will be impossible, for instance, to run a static IP address - a necessary condition for a server - over ADSL.

Telecom has a Web site describing the service at

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