NTL will launch the UK's first cable modem internet service at the end of this month, while BT's rival ADSL offering remains in pilot mode.
Cable modems are aimed at small business, home workers and consumers. They allow continuous connection at speeds of up to 256Kbps.
NTL said it will launch its cable modem service to Surrey and Hampshire subscribers at the end of April and roll it out further by the autumn. The cable operator is partnering network equipment maker 3Com to deliver Internet access at 256Kbps, compared with 124Kbps for existing ISDN services.
Pricing, which is not disclosed, will be based on a flat monthly charge. The service will initially be aimed at residential users, but will later be extended to schools, colleges and small businesses.
Sarah Skinner, European Internet analyst at Durlacher, said NTL's move is interesting given that shareholder Microsoft is also pushing cable modems for high speed access in the US.
Both cable modems and rival access technology ADSL have their drawbacks. ADSL uses existing telephone lines to deliver Internet access at similar speeds to cable modems.
"The problem with ADSL is that not all copper telephone cables can be used. The problem with cable modems is that service degenerates as you put more people online because it is a shared medium," said Skinner.
BT Interactive Services Network marketing manager, Rebecca Webster, said the ADSL trial, initially scheduled for completion by the end of last month, has been delayed until July or August due to "teething troubles".
BT's slowness could reflect its reluctance to invest heavily in its local access networks at a time when BT may be forced to open its local networks to other telcos.
For further stories see 22 April issue of Computing
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