has announced its new approach to broadband services for SMEs, hot on the heels of the DTI's
decision to set up a new broadband team to help speed rollout.

Under BT's three-pronged scheme, broadband services will now be provided in areas that were previously considered uneconomic, marking a major turn around.

"We are listening to our customers who say they will take up broadband if we make it available," said BT Retail chief executive Pierre Danon.

But campaigners at Broadband4Britain have once again criticised BT's threshold figures — the number of registrants required to justify making an exchange ADSL-enabled — claiming they are too high.

Broadband4Britain spokesman Desmond Barrie believes the DTI and BT "should work in a partnership to lower these threshold figures" and make more areas "economic".

The second phase of BT's plan involves partnerships with several IT firms including Computacenter to offer a subscription computing service. The scheme will provide management, monitoring and support for all IT infrastructures.

"The subscription computing service will ensure that medium-sized enterprises have more time to devote to their businesses, without worrying about IT associated issues or the security of their data," said Mike Norris, chief executive of Computacenter.

The third phase involves a trial launch of SDSL (symmetric digital subscriber lines) services in London through a partnership with ISP Bulldog, which has voiced its criticism of BT's handling of certain aspects of broadband in the past.

SDSL is the next step up from DSL and provides voice data and internet applications over a single connection. This means users can upload large amounts of data to the internet quickly and, most importantly, more cost-effectively than with DSL technologies.

"ADSL will continue to be the best solution for many businesses, however some who have data heavy communications will benefit from the high speed SDSL can offer," added BT's Danon.

BT's announcement will undoubtedly be welcomed by the DTI, which has set up yet another group whose job it will be to push broadband.

"The new broadband unit and its network of advisors will use the public sector's spending power to boost the availability and take-up in unconnected areas," said E-commerce minister Stephen Timms.

"We believe government intervention is essential if we are going to get broadband to an acceptable level," said Barrie.