UK cable operator Telewest has been forced to stop marketing its digital TV services because it has been unable to meet the demand for digital set-top boxes due to supply shortages.
According to Telewest, the problem lies with a worldwide shortage of the flash memory chips needed for the box. Pace Micro Technology, which supplies the set-top boxes, has said normal supply levels will resume as quickly as possible.
Telewest said in a statement: "In common with the rest of the industry, Telewest is experiencing short-term problems accessing sufficient set-top boxes to cope with demand from customers for our digital service. We have stopped actively marketing the service temporarily."
The worldwide shortage of flash memory has caused problems across the technology sector. Last month Palm said the shortage was partly responsible for the low number of its handheld devices available in the shops.
Additional flash memory manufacturing plants are being built by the main suppliers including Atmel and SGS, but they are not expected to be running until at least October.
Telewest said it would continue to offer its customers an analogue service and would upgrade them to the digital service when the "supply bottleneck of boxes is resolved".
A spokesman for Telewest said the company has a number of set-top boxes in stock and would continue to supply as many customers as it could. "We still have a supply of set-top boxes, but to avoid disappointing any customers we have stopped marketing the service. We will resume marketing as the supply improves," he said.
Pace also supplies BSkyB, NTL and ONdigital. A NTL spokeswoman said the company is aware of the problem but does not anticipate any problems. "We may adjust our marketing slightly, but we don't think it will affect us that badly and we don't foresee any problems," she said.
The shortage of flash memory will not affect the set-top boxes used by BSkyB.
Telewest launched its digital TV service in October 1999 offering customers 150 TV and radio channels.
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