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TalkTalk’s subsidiary Opal and BT have unveiled credit crunch-defying business broadband offerings, as the rival internet service providers look to capitalise on demand from small to medium enterprises (SMEs) whose cash flow is under strain as a result of the economic downturn.

The deal from Opal, the Warrington-based division of TalkTalk which is the third largest UK ISP in terms of subscriber base, offers a connection speed of 25Mb for a monthly payment of just £10. Under the terms of the Opal Office Broadband deal, business users will be given priority over other customers.

Meanwhile, BT has announced reductions to the cost of its business broadband deals. As of today, its BT Business Total Broadband Option 1 has come down from £19.79 to £15, while the price of Option 2 sliding from £26.99 to £25. Finally, the price of the top of the range Option 3 package has been reduced by 35 per cent from £40.50 to £30.

Paul Lawton, managing director of Opal, said its offer chimed with the prevailing economic mood and predicted that take-up would be extensive as a result. He commented: “For the first time we think there is a small business-grade product that we can go out with at a low price.”

According to the company’s press release, its deal is the most affordable business broadband offer available in the UK. Moreover, it has prompted TalkTalk to claim that it could prompt “less competitive” companies to struggle and prove to be a catalyst for consolidation in the business broadband sector.

However, the claims over the size of the savings that can be made by opting for Opal Office Broadband has already descended into a spat between BT and TalkTalk. The latter claims that the deal is 58 per cent cheaper than the equivalent deal from BT. Meanwhile, BT has said that this figure is exaggerated and has been arrived at by deliberately failing to “compare like with like”.

A spokesperson told Computerweekly.com that TalkTalk had compared its service with the BT Business Total Broadband Option 3. This is unfair, the UK’s largest ISP claims, because this option includes extra services.

He explained: “The claims of Opal are over inflated and fail to compare like with like. Judging by their previous track record and claims in the consumer market, this announcement needs to be treated cautiously.”

Opal currently boasts a subscriber base of 100,000 business broadband customers and is aiming to provide a broadband service for 20 per cent of the UK’s SMEs. Mr Lawton has said that the company is planning to expand its range of next-generation services by adding VoIP and video in the coming months, with the new business broadband deal representing a “building block” towards this goal.

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