Freeserve is to resell ntl's cable broadband product in a deal that the ISP claims will, when added to its existing ADSL service, give it the largest broadband footprint in the UK.
The Freeserve broadband cable service will go on sale later this year, and will be bundled with ntl's telephone and television products. Freeserve will advertise the service online and through its links with high-street retailers such as Dixons -- the same way that it already markets its existing broadband product.
This is thought to be the first time that such an agreement has been struck between a British Internet Service Provider and a cable company, and suggests that BT may finally be facing significant competition in the wholesale broadband market.
Until now, Freeserve's broadband service has been based on BT's ADSL product, which gives customers high-speed Internet access via their phone line. Getting access to ntl's cable network will let Freeserve offer broadband to customers whose local BT exchange has not been ADSL-enabled.
A Freeserve spokeswoman told ZDNet UK News that the ntl deal gives it access to a significant number of new customers. "By the end of the year, seven million homes will have access to ntl's cable network, so Freeserve will definitely have the biggest broadband distribution network in the UK."
It's not yet clear, though, how much Freeserve's cable-based broadband package will cost, or whether it will be much different from ntl's existing high-speed Internet service.
In a statement, Freeserve said that its cable broadband product would be "competitive with alternative broadband offerings in the marketplace," but precise costs aren't yet available. Freeserve's existing broadband product costs £29.99 (inc. VAT) per month.
Freeserve insists that there will be reasons for customers to choose its broadband service rather than ntl's. "As with our narrowband Internet access package, and our ADSL broadband, people will choose Freeserve because of the high-street presence, the quality of service and the content," said the Freeserve spokeswoman.
Having reached this deal with ntl, it is likely that Freeserve will now attempt to come to a similar arrangement with Telewest. "Our aim is to get onto a wide range of different platforms, and this ntl agreement is a first step. A deal with Telewest would be in line with this strategy," said the Freeserve spokeswoman.
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