UK still languishing down DSL league

Despite booming take-up, the UK is still playing second fiddle to the likes of Iceland

Britain is still lagging behind many other industrialised countries in the take-up of DSL broadband services, despite the broadband boom of the past 18 months.

Figures released at the Broadband World Forum on Tuesday by the DSL Forum showed that the UK isn't in the top 20 countries when it comes to the percentage of phone lines that have been converted to DSL.

South Korea leads the way with almost 30 percent of its phone lines having been converted to DSL as of 30 June this year. No other country makes it over 20 percent, which is the DSL Forum's measure of mass-market status, but Japan, Germany, Canada, Italy and France all register in the top 20 alongside less powerful nations like Iceland and Estonia.

The United States and Russia, along with the UK, are the only G8 nations not to make the top 20. Twentieth place on the list went to the Netherlands, with 5.43 percent of its phone lines upgraded to DSL.

It's not all bad news for Britain, though. The DSL Forum's figures show that the number of UK households with DSL jumped by 94.1 percent during the first six months of 2003, second only to Israel. This follows several advertising campaigns, and two price cuts from BT Wholesale -- the major supplier of DSL in Britain.

Dr Paul Reynolds, chief executive of BT Wholesale, told the Broadband World Forum that BT now has more than 1.25 million DSL customers -- equivalent to 5.9 percent of households in the 80 percent of areas where the technology is available. It is though that this works out at just under 5 percent of all households.

According to Tim Johnson, founder of Point Topic -- the analyst firm that carried out the DSL Forum's research -- the UK should soon break into the top 20.

"The key question is whether BT can carry on adding over half a million new connections every six months, as they're presently achieving. I think BT will manage that," Johnson told ZDNet UK.

It is understood that BT is currently adding more than 20,000 new wholesale DSL customers every week. If this is sustained, or even increased, then BT should be on track to hit its target of 5 million DSL users by 2006.

Johnson added that if the take-up of cable broadband was also included then the UK would fare better against international rivals.

The DSL Forum also reported that a total of 10.7 million more DSL customers were added in the first six months of 2003, bringing the total number of subscribers worldwide to 46.7 million.

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