Hot on the heels of a far-reaching deal with Microsoft, BT yesterday announced plans to work with Dell to get its no-frills ADSL product out to consumers and small businesses.
The idea is that Dell will market ADSL to its existing customers, some of whom will already be broadband-enabled, and new customers -- whether buying online or over the phone -- will ultimately have an 'add BT Broadband' option as they configure their PCs.
Simon Calver, vice president UK and Ireland, Dell Home and Small and Medium-sized Business, said: "The end vision is seamless point of sale inclusion of broadband."
However, he stressed that the end service, while enabled by Dell's build-to-order model, is not yet fully set up.
Pierre Danon, cheif executive BT Retail, said the move will help drive take-up of broadband. "There is every reason to be optimistic about the future of BT Broadband and the number of ADSL connections it will generate."
However, the deal is also likely to provoke some bad feeling. AOL had a similar, exclusive relationship with Dell for 12 months, a period which expired recently. So Dell could make a similar move with other ISPs BT is likely to announce similar arrangements with other PC sellers.
A spokesman for AOL said: "Lovely to see [BT] following us as usual."
Companies such as AOL and Freeserve, plus dozens of smaller UK ISPs, have long said BT has an unfair advantage when it comes to offering ADSL. BT says its BTopenworld ISP gets no preferential treatment from its Wholesale division.
However attracting ADSL users outside of the BTopenworld unit -- which does have its own broadband offering -- may seem unfair to many providers who don't have such an option.
Separately, cable company Telewest today announced broadband user figures which show that within its franchise areas 80 percent of home broadband users sign up to its blueyonder service. It now has 235,000 broadband customers.
Graham Hayday contributed to this report
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