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Baldy
28-08-2004, 03:26 PM
Ultra-Fast Broadband Hits Europe

(26/08/2004 01:05 PM - Bernhard Warner - Reuters)

For Rainer Kinnunen, life has been a bit of a blur since he signed up for a superhigh-speed Internet service three years ago.

The 31-year-old Swedish student's computer has supplanted the television as the most vital link between his home and the outside world. He watches television shows and movies, makes phone calls, surfs the Web and plays multiplayer shoot-'em-up games through his high-speed connection - often doing one or more activities at once.

His 10-megabit-per-second service from telecommunications company Bredbandsbolaget is up to 20 times faster than conventional cable modems, enabling a user to download a two-hour movie in a matter of minutes rather than hours.

For Kinnunen, the result has been a lifestyle change that, though not revolutionary, is certainly noticeable. "If my child wants a movie, I can download it instantly," he said. "And I haven't been to the neighbourhood music store in years."

Since going superhigh-speed, Kinnunen has set up two computer servers in his apartment in the Stockholm suburb of Eskilstuna. One supplies his digital photos to friends and family. On the other, he duels it out for hours a day with other players of the "Half-Life: Day of Defeat" online war game.

And he has enough bandwidth and server space left over to broadcast his DVDs from his apartment to his friends' computers in case they want to watch along from across town.

United States Lagging

Bredbandsbolaget (http://www.bredband.com/se/index.jsp) also offers 100-megabit-per-second service for 595 Swedish crowns (43.77 pounds) a month in select neighbourhoods where the telecom wiring is state-of-the-art. More than 1,500 households have signed up for the service, the company said.

Also in Sweden, Nordic telecommunications giant TeliaSonera (http://www.teliasonera.com) offers an 8-megabit service that analysts refer to as multimegabit broadband. Elsewhere in Europe, Italy's e.Biscom (http://www.fastweb.it) provides a similarly speedy connection.

For now, North America has missed the high-speed revolution occurring in homes across Europe, Japan and South Korea. US companies like Qwest Communications International Inc. (http://pcat.qwest.com/pcat/residential.do) are just beginning to break through the 1 megabit threshold in certain markets.

But within the next two years, multimegabit broadband will be a reality in most countries, analysts said, as telecommunications companies invest vast sums to upgrade their phone networks with high-speed chip sets and new fibre lines.

"The move to higher speeds is upon us," said analyst Graham Finnie of consultancy Yankee Group. "There's a very strong incentive for providers to offer this. As traditional broadband prices fall, the higher-speed offerings are necessary to keep margins from falling with them."

Multifunctionality

For the consumer, it means one company can offer television, movies-on-demand, phone service and Web surfing, pitting smaller upstart Internet service providers against local cable companies.

"We see ourselves as an alternative to the local cable operators," said Peder Ramel, chief executive of Bredbandsbolaget. "That's our pitch."

Like its slower predecessors, multimegabit broadband services have limitations. Most notably, customers must live near - between a quarter- and half-mile - of the telecoms exchange point.

"Initially, this will be a service only for city dwellers," said Yankee Group's Finnie.

And, the speeds advertised refer only to downloading, the transfer of data from the Internet to a personal computer. Sending large files to others is considerably slower, but still much faster than through conventional modems.

Finally, multimegabit broadband can be twice as expensive as conventional broadband.

But prices are dropping rapidly, and demand is strong. "There are no longer any compelling technical reasons that service providers cannot push up to higher broadband speeds," Finnie said.

Graham L
28-08-2004, 03:31 PM
Did Europe hit it back?