Broadband take-up doubles in six months

Cable broadband and DSL are seeing a surge of interest from consumers and small businesses in the wake of BT's wholesale price cuts. Are we on the fast-track to Broadband Britain?

Broadband take-up in the UK has more than doubled since the start of 2002, leading to optimism that the vision of Broadband Britain is finally becoming a reality.

Figures released by Oftel this week show that at the end of June 2002 a total of 709,000 consumers and small and medium-sized businesses had signed up for a broadband connection. This is an increase of some 113 percent compared to the start of the year, when there were only 332,000 broadband subscribers.

Both cable broadband and DSL have seen an equally strong boost in demand. There are now 290,000 ADSL users and 419,00 cable broadband users, compared to compared to 136,000 ADSL and 196,000 cable users at the beginning of January.

This boom in broadband take-up follows the halving of the price of BT Wholesale's ADSL products, the creation of self-installation ADSL kit, and the launch of 1MB broadband services from ntl and Telewest.

E-commerce minister Stephen Timms welcomed this latest evidence that the UK's broadband future is looking healthy.

"Oftel's latest figures highlight a key step towards Broadband Britain. Take-up has soared over the last six months and with prices as low as £20 a month, broadband no longer has to be a distant dream. We must now use this momentum to increase coverage and develop valuable, exciting content," said Timms.

But some in the industry are concerned that the current surge in broadband take-up may begin to tail off in a few months.

Before BT Wholesale's price cuts and the launch of DIY broadband, ADSL services cost around £50 per month on top of a £150 installation fee. Now that services cost between £22 and £30 a month and some ISPs are subsidising the equipment and start-up costs, many Internet users who had been put off from getting broadband last year because of the high prices are now signing up.

Once this pool of price-conscious Internet users is exhausted, there will need to be plenty of compelling broadband content if BT's target of five million broadband users by 2006 is to be hit.

Even with 709,000 end-users signed up, though, there is still a massive untapped broadband user base. Oftel's latest figures mean that only 6 percent of home users with Internet access are using broadband.

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