The battle to kick-start broadband internet access in the UK heated up today when UK's largest cable firms, NTL and Telewest, announced they are joining forces.
The move was seen by industry experts as an attempt by the cable companies to hijack BT Openworld's growing presence in the nascent UK broadband market.
Ade Ajibulu, senior consultant at analyst Analysys predicted a heated battle between BT Openworld's Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) and the cable companies' cable offerings: "It was about this time in the US market that ADSL began to outstrip cable broadband, and the US cable firms enjoyed a stronger presence and weaker competition than we have with in the UK. If you have a national broadband supplier, as we do in BT, then it provides them with an increased competitive edge."
Speaking to vnunet.com Adam Smith, managing director at Telewest's business & commercial division, expressed frustration at the consumer mindshare which BT has secured: "To too many people broadband in this country means ADSL, it isn't." He added: "This is a shot in the arm for Broadband Britain.
The NTL-Telewest joint venture centres on the 28 July launch of a joint six week TV and print promotional drive for cable broadband high-speed internet services.
Telewest and NTL offer cable packages from £25 a month, covering 37 per cent of the UK and Ireland, providing connection speeds of either 64 or 512 kbps. BT charges £39.99 per month for ADSL, but ADSL reaches twice as many homes.
BT recently launched a major advertising campaign of its own, portraying itself at the hub of the internet but a spokeswoman for Telewest denied that the cable firms campaign was a spoiler. She said: "Any campaign that promotes broadband is important."
The UK currently has one of the worst rate of broadband adoption of any developed country. Less than one per cent of connections are broadband, roughly split half and half between cable and ADSL, and the situation has begun to worry the government.
UK E-envoy Andrew Pinder has grown concerned that adoption of the technology, which is a step to delivering a more TV-like internet, has been slow.
"We need to have much more penetration and to sort out pricing," he explained to vnunet.com.
"We are determined to have the most competitive broadband market in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development [OECD]. We will have the most extensive broadband coverage in the OECD, but making this happen is an uphill task."
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