Bell Atlantic, 3Com Partner to Sell High-Speed Internet

Bell Atlantic and top modem maker 3Com Corp. (Nasdaq: COMS) have forged an alliance to sell high-speed Internet access to consumers. The new Infospeed networking service will allow Bell Atlantic customers to use a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) with a new 3Com modem for the first time.

Infospeed is part of a race by Bell Atlantic and other U.S. local phone companies to be the first to introduce wide-scale, high-speed Internet access across the U.S. The phone companies are attempting to beat the cable companies in the consumer broadband stakes.

Trial Period

Infospeed will be on trial in 30 homes in Washington, D.C. for the next six to eight weeks, and is expected to expand to full availability for both homes and businesses in most northeastern cities by the end of the year. Bell Atlantic already competes with cable operators in the video delivery business by selling and installing DirecTv digital satellite service as a cable alternative.

By the end of October, consumers will be able to go to a CompUSA or Staples store in the Bell Atlantic region and buy a DSL kit that includes a 3Com HomeConnect modem. The kits come with all the information and software needed to use Bell Atlantic’s high-speed Internet access service.

Additionally, 700 of Bell Atlantic’s 2300 central offices will be equipped for DSL by the beginning of 2000. The offices are located along the coast from Maine to Virginia.

Home Internet Harmony

The Bell Atlantic networking package will essentially create a high-speed local area network without the need for new wiring. Networking hardware will be installed in each computer in the home, and the computers will be plugged into separate phone jacks in each room.

Using the home’s telephone wiring as the network, family members and people with home offices will be able to connect multiple PCs to the Internet while simultaneously sharing other equipment such as fax machines, printers and scanners. Fax communications can be transmitted over the phone lines without interrupting the Internet connection.

In addition to putting multiple users online, the service will allow users to swap files between PCs, play multi-player games and share hardware, just as many offices do through local area networks.

The digital high-speed service provides an “always-on” link to the Internet by employing unused capacity available in existing telephone lines.

Super High-Speed Modems and Phone Lines

The DSL technology delivers data over standard phone lines at speeds ranging from 640,000 up to 7.1 million bits a second, which is 10 to 100 times faster than the standard 56K modem. “3Com’s modem allows consumers to get online faster and easier than ever before,” said Fred D’Alessio, group president of Consumer Services for Bell Atlantic.

Interactive kiosks and information centers will be set up in select stores for consumers to try the service and experience the speed of using DSL Infospeed with the 3Com HomeConnect modem.

The 3Com HomeConnect modem package will retail at $229 (US$), but consumers will be eligible for a $130 rebate from Bell Atlantic after using the service for two months. For phone lines that are DSL compatible, the package requires no rewiring and no home service call. Service can be activated within seven days.

Bell Atlantic is the largest of the local telephone companies, with 43 million telephone access lines and 10 million wireless customers. 3Com is the largest modem manufacturer with over 300 million customers.

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