Despite plans to roll out DSL services to ISPs in the Greater Toronto Area in September and Montreal in November, Optel Communications Corp. last month seemed unable to provide clear details on speeds and pricing.

“They won’t tell me about the pricing. That’s what I asked for. I know it exists and I know they’re showing it to the customers, but they wouldn’t tell me,” said Jordan Worth, a telecommunications and Internet analyst with research firm IDC Canada Ltd. in Toronto.

However, in an interview with Dave Kington, vice-president of business development for Optel in Toronto — not the same person who briefed Worth — the prices were available at least as a range from approximately $75 up to $350.

Kington said there were three levels of DSL access available at the following speeds: 320Kbps upstream, 1.3Mbps downstream; 1Mbps up, 2.5Mbps down; and its ADSL product at 2.5Mbps up and 7Mbps down.

However, IDC’s Worth was told a different speed range, from 144Kbps to 7.1Mbps.

“The telcos are really paranoid about giving out pricing, which doesn’t make sense in a competitive market,” Worth said. “They (Optel) seem to be competing on price. That’s their thing and they also say their advantages are that they’re Cisco-based, they have three levels of service, and that’s the long and short of it.”

Worth said the pricing he has seen from Bell Nexxia is on a per-user model and Optel told him it had something similar, but the CLEC would not elaborate beyond that.

Making it even more difficult to compare Optel’s offering to other providers is the fact that what connectivity and equipment an ISP gets for the price they pay may differ from provider to provider.

“What we’re providing the ISPs is just the network access portion. So they’re getting basically the transport from us. The ISP will provide the router, the customer provided equipment packaged into their pricing, and they will provide the bandwidth out from the ISP to the Internet cloud,” Optel’s Kington said.

Worth said that offering will likely be fine to the larger ISPs, but the small ones will be unable to provide that level of connectivity themselves. He also said the price difference from the main providers such as Bell would have to be at least 15 per cent to 20 per cent to pull customers away from contracts.

“ISPs are going to want support, and that’s where Optel is at a disadvantage, being a new entrant. They don’t have a history and ISPs don’t want their networks to go down without knowing whatever the problem is it will be fixed quickly,” Worth said.

“But overall, I’m a real supporter of CLECs and I want to see what they can do, and I’m encouraged by what I see from Optel. I just want to hear more,” Worth added.

Kington noted that Optel is allegedly able to give ISPs lower rates than Bell on DSL lines because ISPs and Optel are not in competition with each other.

“Bell doesn’t want to sell to the ISPs because they’re competitors. We look at the ISPs as partners,” Kington said.

Optel in Toronto is at 1-877-678-3526. The company Web site is at www.optel.ca.