Ameritech Corp, the Baby Bell, claims to be the first company to launch a commercial Asynchronous Digital Subscriber Line consumer high speed internet access service, some 50 times faster than high speed analog modems, and a replacement for dial-up and ISDN connections. And Ameritech said it would be forming a partnership with Microsoft Corp to make the technology easier to install and use. ADSL uses standard copper telephone lines, so no expensive modifications are needed to consumers local connections. The technology has been in trials for around three years, and now is reaching commercialization in the US. Regional Bells including Ameritech, Bell Atlantic Corp, US West Communications Inc, Pacific Bell Corp and Southwestern Bell Corp, have formed an equipment buying and testing consortium, and all of them plan to launch commercial ADSL services in the next year. Central office switching equipment and the ADSL modems are supplied by French telecommunications equipment supplier Alcatel Telecom SA, which has pioneered manufacture of equipment conforming to Amati Communications Inc’s Discrete Multi Tone modulation system, a method for compressing all the extra information onto copper wire. The current incarnation of its ADSL system has a download speed of 1.5Mbps and upload speed of 128Kbps, but in Alcatel’s new line of ADSL equipment, the speed is boosted by a factor of five. Microsoft is helping Ameritech lobby hardware manufacturers to make personal computers and equipment ADSL compatible,with the addition of built in Internet Protocol and Ethernet support, and the production of ADSL card modems. Without these, a technician has to set up a 10Mbps Ethernet connection between PC and modem, as standard serial ports can’t take the high data rate, and that means a hefty $150 installation fee, more than the cost of a high speed analog modem. In return for Microsoft’s help, Ameritech is using Internet Explorer as the exclusive browser for its Ameritech.net internet service. The ADSL service will cost $200 for the modem, and $60 per month for unlimited usage, with the modem charge waived for the whole of 1998. Ameritech is initially launching services in Michigan, with launches in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin to follow.
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