ISDN to grab US market share in 1998, says IDC

The market for ISDN products and services is expected to see major growth in the US this year, according to reports released this week by IDC/Link, a subsidiary of International Data. It appears that with rising demand for high speed Internet-access, ISDN is looking more real and more avaialble than the current buzzword technologies such as DSL.

The market for ISDN products and services is expected to see major growth in the US this year, according to reports released this week by IDC/Link, a subsidiary of International Data.

The market research firm attributes most of the impending ISDN growth to several changes in the market last year, including rising demand for high speed Internet-access and local telecommunications companies repackaging their ISDN offerings.

Much of its growth last year came from higher demand for Internet access, as well as ISDN's flexibility and widespread availability, said Jeannette Noyes, a research manager for IDC/Link's residential telecommunications services group.

"The basic theme is if you need more bandwidth, this is the last mile," Noyes said. While digital subscriber line (DSL) and other wireless technologies do exist, their availability is limited, she said.

According to IDC/Link, there were 125,650 lines with basic rate interface ISDN access at the end of 1993. That number jumped to over 933,000 lines at the end of 1997, with 85% of telephone subscribers able to directly access ISDN.

Lines that feature primary rate interface ISDN totaled over 31,000 at the end of 1996, IDC/Link said. The number of these lines totaled over 49,000 at the end of 1997. The firm expects ISDN PRI/BRI access lines to reach over 1.3 million by the end of this year, and over 3 million lines by the end of 2002.

Local exchange carriers (LECs), including Bell Atlantic, Pacific Bell, SBC Communications and US West, also had a large impact in the growth of ISDN, by taking several steps: simplifying their packages, lowering prices and offering policies of 100%, or close to 100 percent availability.

For example, SBC announced this week it will repackage its dial-up Internet services. The new service, Extra Access Plan, will be rolled out Aug. 1 for $US21.95 per month for 150 hours of Internet access. Additional hours are priced at $1.80 per hour.

SBC also announced it will cut the pricing of its basic ISDN service from $49.95 per month to $29.95, beginning Aug. 1.

"Local exchange carriers want to bond more with their customers and tell them they've got something sexier than the competition," Noyes said. Companies want to build upon these relationships, she added.

ISDN growth this year will also be spurred on by Always On/Dymanic ISDN (AO/DI), a dial-up connection that keeps a data channel open. Without AO/DI, users have to hang on to the circuit and wind up clogging their network, Noyes said.

As for the future of ISDN, Noyes expects Pacific Bell and Bell Atlantic to be the leaders of the market.

IDC/Link published three studies on ISDN: "Residential ISDN Market Assessment, 1997-2002: The Best is Yet to Come," "Corporate ISDN in 1998: Has Its Time Come?" and "Small Business ISDN Market Assessment, 1998-2002: Still a Growing Market."

IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts, can be reached at http://www.idc.com/.

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