Rupert Murdoch's introduction this autumn of TV set-top boxes capable of receiving 200 digital TV channels is accelerating the introduction of widespread broadband Net access.
The new boxes have already caused a political storm, with claims that they will corner digital TV access because no-one will want to buy another box to view, say, the BBC.
Cable companies know that the same goes for their services and they plan to have their own rival set-top boxes in place. The satellite and cable boxes will each have a return channel for interactive services. Murdoch's, however, will use an ordinary phone line.
Cable companies will also offer cable modems for PC users. Nynex and Telewest are field-testing Motorola models, which provide a 10Mbps link via a standard Ethernet card.
BT is testing Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ASDL) technology, which offer 7Mbps downstream and 640Kbps reverse, on an ordinary line, for roughly the cost of an ISDN line.
Dave Pearson, head of technical planning at Nynex, said: 'Once we get into interactive services they are really going to take off.'
Ian Hood, Telewest's head of communication, admits that most businesses don't quite know what to do with the new medium. 'Frankly, we are more concerned with the content than with the technology,' he said.
In fact, there is a door open which anyone can enter. 'The killer application for broadband modems probably isn't going to come from some major company. It is going to come from some oik in a back room,' Hood added.
See cable feature page 33
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