Scotland-based telecommunications company Thus PLC has announced plans for the commercial launch of its ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) services for businesses next month, beating British Telecom to the punch.

ADSL allows users to be constantly connected to the Internet, at speeds much faster than conventional modems, over existing copper wire lines and the traditional phone jack.

The launch of the service follows a trial of 500 home and small-business customers across the U.K. since March. The first installations for business customers will be made on 20 July, said Claire Rowberry, head of corporate communications for Thus, formerly called Scottish Telecom.

British Telecommunications PLC (BT) plans to launch a trial of its own content-driven ADSL service, BTopenworld, next month, with the full roll out for business and home users beginning in September.

And while Thus said it will launch services featuring 2Mbps (bits per second) downstream next month, BT has said that it does not plan on launching a comparable speed until later in the year.

So far, ADSL upgrades and pilot programs ranging from Thus' trials to the commercial launch, as well as BT's upcoming trial and future commercial launch, has occurred in the same 400 exchanges located in and around Birmingham, Belfast, Cambridge, Cardiff, Coventry, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Milton Keynes and Newcastle.

These areas, consisting of 26 percent of the U.K.'s population, are set to be the first to have exchanges upgraded to allow ADSL service. BT has said it is on track to update exchanges so that by mid-2001, half of the U.K.'s homes and businesses will be within reach, and 70 percent coverage will be reached by the end of next year.

Thus is launching its three business packages 20 July.

Demon Express Plus has a contention ratio of 20:1, which means that up to 20 simultaneous users will be sharing the same Internet connection, according to Rowberry. Users are capable of receiving information (downstream) at speeds of 512kbps and sending (upstream) capabilities of 256kbps, for £95 and an installation charge of £250.

Demon Express Pro also has a contention rate of 20:1, with speeds of up to 2Mbps downstream and 256kbps upstream. The service is £175 per month, with an installation fee of £250.

The top business option, Demon Express Gold, shares the same speeds as Demon Express Pro, but costs £290 per month, with a £250 installation fee.
The company home package will be launched in September. Demon Express has a contention ratio of 50:1. It offers downstream capabilities of 512kbps and upstream capabilities of 256kbps. The Demon Express service is available for £49.99 per month, including tax, with an initial installation fee of £150 or by paying a monthly charge of £64.99 per month including tax, users can skip the installation fee.

BT's own ADSL service is planned to launch in September with an initial offering for both business and personal packages of 500kbps downstream and 256kbps upstream. The consumer package will be priced at £39.99 per month (including tax), with an installation charge of £150 (if ordered after 30 June).

The business package ranges from £39.99 for a single business user to £99.99 for more than one on the business package, plus an installation charge of £260. BT will offer a contention ratio of 50:1 for personal packages and 20:1 for business packages.