Freeserve is to launch its ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) service eight weeks before BT launches its own.

Freeserve’s high-speed service goes live from September 4. Called FreeservePlus, it will operate over BT’s ADSL platform, said Freeserve spokesman, Steven Pang.

Pang added: "BT is a big animal, but 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."

Trial BT 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 a month, plus a one-time fee of £150 for installation (both prices include VAT), Pang said. The pricing plan is similar to the one announced by BT.

Business rate Freeserve's broadband service will offer data transmission speeds up to 512Kbps (bits per second). According to Pang, users who want to upgrade to speeds of 1Mbps or 2Mbps would have to opt for the ADSL business packages that the company began offering in July. Business users currently pay £189.99 (excluding VAT) per month for the 2Mbps service.

The supply of higher-bandwidth services "is in BT's ball court", Pand said. He added: "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."

Delays BT had initially announced in April that it would begin offering broadband Internet services aimed at home and small business users 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 BT, saying the company hadn't offered a competitive enough wholesale package to ISPs (Internet service providers).