Broadband Britain nears three-million milestone

There are now almost three million broadband connections in the country, and over half of those are on ADSL, which only 18 months ago was in 'nowhere land'

The UK's broadband market is continuing to heat up, with more users signing up for high-speed Internet services than ever before.

The Trade and Industry Select Committee heard on Tuesday that take-up of broadband services by Britain's consumers and small businesses is continuing to accelerate. David Edmonds, director general of Oftel, told the committee that there are now in excess of 2.9 million broadband users in the UK. In October, 49,000 people were connected to broadband each week," said Edmonds.

This is a significant increase on earlier this year, when take-up rates hit 30,000 users per week on the back of price cuts and advertising campaigns from some of the major players in the UK broadband market.

BT also gave an upbeat assessment of the progress that had been made in building Broadband Britain over the last couple of years. Appearing before the committee late in the afternoon, BT chief executive Ben Verwaayen told the committee that by last Friday BT had precisely 1,533,858 wholesale ADSL customers. "Since you started this meeting, 10,000 people have got broadband, so something is happening out there," Verwaayen said.

The UK broadband market is split fairly evenly between BT Wholesale and the cable companies NTL and Telewest.

It is believed that the Internet service providers that resell BT's ADSL range are experiencing particularly strong customer growth at present, and that the number of people signing up for ADSL could actually be nearing 40,000 per week. There is typically a delay of a few weeks between a customer ordering broadband and actually getting connected to the service, so broadband take-up may even be poised to break the 50,000 users per week mark.

"Eighteen months ago, we were in nowhere land. BT has gone from a footprint that just covered metropolitan areas to one that reaches 80 percent of the population, and we have a clear roadmap to 90 percent coverage," Verwaayen said.

BT has set itself the target of reaching two million broadband customers by the end of 2004. If its current success continues, this goal should be achieved at a canter.