Freeserve is planning to launch its ADSL service eight weeks before BT.

Available 4 September, the high-speed Internet service, to be called FreeservePlus, will operate over BT's ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) platform, said Freeserve spokesman, Steven Pang.

"BT is a big animal and Freeserve is able to hit the ground running. We've been waiting a long time for BT to enable us to offer ADSL to our customers and there have been at least six delays," Pang said.

BT, in charge of upgrading national exchanges to offer ADSL, currently plans to launch a trial of its own content-driven ADSL service, BTopenworld, in October, with the full roll-out for business and home users beginning in November.

Home users of FreeservePlus will be charged £39.99 pounds a month, plus a one-time fee of £150 for installation, Pang said. The pricing plan is similar to the one announced by BT.

Freeserve's broadband service will offer data transmission speeds up to 512K bps (bits per second).

According to Pang, users who want to upgrade to speeds of 1M bps or 2M bps would have to opt for the ADSL business packages that the company began offering in July. Business users currently pay £189.99 per month for the 2Mbps service, not including tax.

Being able to offer more broadband to consumers "is in BT's ball court. If people demand higher bandwidth, then maybe BT would have to offer it to us. As it is we all buy and resell from BT and we aren't able to offer anything higher than 512K to consumers right now," Pang said.

BT had initially announced in April that it would begin offering broadband Internet services aimed at home and small business users in the U.K. in July, but the service launch has since experienced numerous delays.

BT has been taking a lot of flak in the past two days. On Monday AltaVista admitted that its flat-rate Internet access deal, which prompted a storm of price cutting by British Internet access providers when it was announced earlier this year, was "being put on hold."

AltaVista's chief executive officer Andy Mitchell blamed British Telecom, saying BT hadn't offered a competitive enough wholesale package to ISPs (Internet service providers).