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Broadband Britain storms to three million customers

Oftel has hailed its success in creating a competitive broadband marketplace in the UK, despite BT's continued dominance of the wholesale ADSL market

Broadband Britain notched up another milestone on Wednesday, when telecommunications regulator Oftel announced that the UK's three-millionth high-speed Internet connection had been installed.

This marks a good year for Britain's broadband industry, which has enjoyed impressive take-up of both ADSL and cable broadband services thanks to a series of price cuts and aggressive advertising campaigns since early 2002.

However, the figure of three million connections includes users of Tiscali's 128Kbps (kilobits per second) and NTL's 150Kbps services, which rival ISPs insist aren't worthy of the term broadband.

Oftel says that more than 40,000 households and businesses a week are currently receiving a broadband connection of between 128Kbps and 2Mbps, depending on the supplier. Industry sources suggest the precise figure could be as high as 49,000 new connections per week.

David Edmonds, director general of Oftel, said in a statement on Monday that broadband is one of the fastest-growing new technologies of recent years.

"It is transforming the way consumers and businesses use the Internet, and is now becoming an important market in its own right," said Edmonds. "In the last five years the Internet has moved from the margins to the mass market, with half of all UK households and two-thirds of businesses now online."

Edmonds claimed that Oftel deserved credit for the boost in broadband adoption because of its "effective regulatory interventions", which he said have boosted competition at both an infrastructure and a retail level.

The broadband wholesale market is split fairly evenly, with BT controlling slightly more of the market than NTL and Telewest combined. However, BT Wholesale has a near-monopoly of the ADSL market, following the failure of local-loop unbundling -- a key responsibility of Oftel's -- to generate much competition for ADSL services.

The retail ADSL market, though, is very competitive with over 100 ISPs reselling BT Wholesale's service.