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The price of speed: High-speed home Internet connections arrive, but they're nor cheap. (Tech Talk).

They've been talking about it for years, and I've been listening anxiously. But now that it finally has arrived, I'm not so sure I want it anymore. The Internet junkie in me salivates at the thought of a DSL home Internet connection, which enables Internet connection through a phone line at four times the speed of a regular 56k modem--and still lets you make phone calls.

So why haven't I signed up already? Quite simply, it's the cost. The service--Prodigy's Infinitum-costs upwards of 10,000 pesos for the first year of service. Take a minute to think what you could buy with that money, and then you can proceed to the next paragraph.

So, if you already own a big-screen TV, killer stereo and designer outfits, and can easily make your car and house payments as well, then you're better off than I am and should read on.

If you're part of the market that demands high-speed Internet connections at home in Mexico, you're probably familiar with Prodigy Turbo, which is what I've been using for a year now. That ISDN service takes your regular phone line and effectively splits it in two, allowing you to mix and match depending on if you want to use those lines for phone calls or Internet use. Using both lines gives you better than twice the speed of a regular modem, but making and receiving calls drops you down to half Internet speed, and the automatic reconnection after you put the phone down costs you another local call. After receiving my first month's bill for the service, when I was charged for 300 calls over the 200 free local calls included with the service, I've pretty much just kept one line open at all times.

Another problem I've noticed with Prodigy Turbo is that my phone just doesn't work as well anymore, since it's now part of the fancy ISDN service instead of being just a plain old telephone. There have been afternoons, sometimes whole days, when my telephone service was out because the Prodigy network was down. Old, jumbled-up wiring in the telephone network can downgrade connection speeds, cause "crosstalk,' and sometimes make connections just plain impossible. Despite the fancy technology involved with DSL and Infinitum, it still depends on the tangle of old copper wires that occasionally interfere with the Turbo service.

Prodigy's Infinitum is a definite improvement over their Turbo system: at 256 kilobits per second, it's four, not two, times faster than a regular modem-and gives you a full-time phone line on top of that. So you can stay connected to the Internet at all times, and not have to worry about using the telephone.

That's fantastic, and I highly recommend it--if you can afford the 3,450-peso modem and 575 pesos a month after that.

The Competition

So far, Prodigy (owned by the Telmex empire and U.S. telecom giant SBC Communications) is the only affordable provider of high-speed Internet access to Mexican homes. Telecosmo, part of the Unefon/Ricardo Salinas Pliego group, has a sexy but expensive wireless system up and running in Mexico City. However, Prodigy services whip them silly in price competiton, as Telecosmo charges nearly three times as much for 128kps and 256 kps connections. However, there may yet be hope for pulling high-speed home Internet prices down out of the stratosphere, and closer to U.S. prices of around US$40 a month. So far, Telmex's ownership of Prodigy, which holds some 60% of the Internet service provider market in Mexico, has been a strong incentive to keep other companies' hands off of the Telmex-owned home phone lines. Two things could soon change that. One is that Telmex has at least mentioned the possibility of allowing other companies (Alestra and Avantel being top choices) to offer DSL services to the home. Another is th at Telmex and Grupo Carso Telecom have been presented with an offer by SBC to buy out their remaining stakes in Prodigy, which would mostly cut the connection between Mexico's largest Internet service provider (Prodigy) and the owner of the nation's telecoms infrastructure (Telmex). SBC does hold a minority share of Telmex, but if the deal goes through, it would be yet another step away from the former monopoly's domination of Mexico's telecommunications. More competition, lower prices ... we hope.

Josh Tuynman ( is a Mexico City-based freelance technology writer.
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico A.C.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Tuynman, Josh
Publication:Business Mexico
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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