Cable operator NTL has said that it will offer free and unmetered internet access in the UK from April, providing users switch to its phone service.
The service, called ntlworld, will be available for PC users from 17 April, with a TV-based internet service to follow in a few weeks. NTL's move comes a day after ISP Altavista unveiled plans to offer unmetered internet access in the UK with no monthly fee.
Customer registration for the service opened today (see below for details) and NTL said it was receiving more than 700 consecutive requests by mid-morning.
Cable rival Telewest had a disastrous launch into unmetered access last month as subscribers jammed its network. NTL said it has spent four months toughening up its network to cope with demand.
Gerry Roest, group managing director of NTL Internet, told vnunet.com: "We're expecting many hundreds of thousands of users. There's something like five million users in the UK and we expect a high proportion to move."
Customers will need to sign up to NTL's phone service. Homes in areas cabled by the operator will get access as part of a cable TV and phone package priced at £9.25 a month.
Other telco customers will need to buy a line adapter for £10 and must spend at least £10 a month on non-internet voice calls. Ntlworld users will not incur a call connection, ISP subscription fee or internet call charges.
"NTL has a vision to bring the internet to all UK homes, either via the PC or the TV," said Barclay Knapp, NTL chief executive. "Ntlworld will help the UK in a drive to lead the world in making ecommerce, e-entertainment and e-education available to everyone."
Subscribers will be able to use the service through their PC or TV once the TV service is launched. NTL is testing a device, which lets users view TV and access the internet at the same time on the same screen, with some 3000 users.
Altavista plans to charge users a one-off fee of £30 to £50 and an annual fee of £10 to £20 in return for unmetered internet access. Excite.co.uk also plans to launch a similar service before the end of this year.
To subscribe, either visit http://www.askntl.com or call 0800 952 4343
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