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

Unlike BT, Thus has confirmed its ADSL service will be Mac compatible from launch. BT has said it plans to support the Mac, but is having trouble with the drivers.

ADSL allows constant connection to the Internet, at speeds much faster than conventional modems, over existing copper-wire lines and the traditional phone jack. In much of Europe, this also means the elimination of metered, pay-by-the-minute call charges for an Internet connection.

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

"All of our feedback from the trial was excellent," Rowberry said. She declined to comment on how many of the people participating in the trial had decided to continue with the service.

However, Thus is not rolling out ADSL services for personal users until September. Thus and its service provider unit, Demon, have always been very focused on businesses, Rowberry said. She added: "We're still focusing on the business place, promoting that for our customers."

A month behind BT currently 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.

However, Thus promises to launch services featuring 2Mbps 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, have 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 per cent of the UK'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 UK.'s homes and businesses will be within reach, and 70 per cent coverage will be reached by the end of next year.

The cost Thus is launching three packages on July 20.

Demon Express Plus has a contention ratio of 20:1, which means 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 per month 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. Express Gold includes the Netopia network-server package.

"Most businesses don't really care about technology; what they really want to concentrate on is their business," Rowberry said. "This package allows them to hook up to 100 computers to the connection, and we give them the support."

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, with an initial installation fee of £150, or by paying a monthly charge of £64.99 per month, users can skip the installation fee.

The Btopenworld service is expected to cost less than the Thus’ when it is launched.