Telewest's chief executive today welcomed moves to open up BT's local networks to competition, but said his company has no plans to offer broadband services over BT's copper wire.
Instead, Tony Illsley said he wants to focus on expanding the UK cable company's reach in the business market and making the most of the cables Telewest already has in the ground.
"Anything that increases the level of competition in the market has to be a good thing," said Illsley at a news conference in London. "However, there are enormous opportunities to leverage our own network before leveraging others' copper networks."
On Tuesday, Oftel released a proposal that would force BT to give rival service providers access to its local telephone lines within two years. (see Newswire 6 July)
Today Telewest was promoting its business service, which at present has just two per cent of the UK business voice and data market. Telewest calls it its "best kept secret" and claims to serve over 45,000 mainly small and medium sized business customers.
Telewest's business division accounted for around 20 per cent of total sales in 1998. In the first quarter of this year, business revenue grew by 30 per cent.
"We're well on track to continue growing annual revenues at a similar pace," said Glenn Tookey, managing director of Telewest's Business Communications division.
Broadband services such as asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL), third generation wireless and cable modem will create a new market for broadband service.
"A new market with new products is a great place to be," said Illsley.
Telewest is planning a cable modem service for consumers and for small office/home office workers. The two services will launch simultaneously, according to Illsley, initially offering high speed Internet access, but later extending to integrate with digital TV and ecommerce. No launch date was given.
But despite the alternative network opportunities presented by Oftel's decision and by the licensing of third generation mobile networks and fixed wireless broadband, Telewest is for now concentrating on filling its existing network.
Of around four million homes passed by its network, it has around 1.2 million residential telephony customers.
"There is so much potential opportunity in the broadband cable infrastructure that my focus, and the company's focus, will be on leveraging that and the bandwidth capability of the cable network. It's phenomenally better than anything out there, so we've got more than enough to exploit with our cable network," said Illsley.
Telewest is widely known to be holding merger talks with rival Cable & Wireless Communications. Illsley said he couldn't comment on the talks today while the companies are in an "under offer period".
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