ADSL wrestles broadband top spot from cable

Oftel has calculated that one in five homes with Internet access are using broadband, as Britain's love of high-speed surfing grows

ADSL has overtaken cable as the most widely used broadband technology in the UK, according to new figures -- which show that Britain's broadband boom is alive and well.

In its latest Internet and Broadband Brief, published late on Tuesday, Oftel reported that there are now 2,335,000 broadband users in the UK -- over three times as many as a year ago. ADSL users make up 1.18 million of this total, followed by cable broadband users at 1.141 million -- with the rest using alternative technologies like satellite and wireless.

According to Oftel, 20 percent of UK homes with Internet access are using broadband.

This is the first time in at least two years that ADSL, which is primarily offered by BT Wholesale -- has outpaced cable, which is sold by NTL and Telewest. Its rise in popularity can probably be attributed to large price cuts made by BT and passed on by ISPs last year, a big rise in consumer awareness, and increased ADSL rollout.

Oftel's figures show that BT Wholesale's ADSL network now covers 71 percent of the population, from 1,507 local exchanges. Several hundred of these exchanges have been recently upgraded thanks to customer demand and local campaigning.

Cable is only available to 45 percent of the population, and despite NTL and Telewest now being on firmer financial ground than in recent times it's unlikely that they will carry out any significant network growth in the near future.

There had been concern that the broadband boom would tail off as ISPs ran out of potential customers who will pay today's prices, but Oftel reports that there are still around 30,000 people joining the broadband revolution each week.

As such, it looks likely that ADSL, with its greater availability, will further increase its share of the market, which would make it easier for telcos and ISPs to cut prices and increase rollout further.