Ntl puts broadband on set-top boxes

Cable company extends high-speed Internet access to former Cable & Wireless network

Cable provider ntl has expanded its high-speed Internet access service to cover another 500,000 potential users, the company said on Wednesday.

The users are in areas covered by what was formerly Cable & Wireless. Ntl bought the Cable & Wireless cable TV network about a year ago, but was unable to extend broadband services to users in those areas at the time for technical reasons, according to the companies.

Engineers have now found a way to work around the problem by running broadband services through the subscribers' existing set-top boxes. The boxes were supplied by Pace Micro and already have broadband cable-modems installed, ntl said. Instead of running a line directly into their PCs from a wall socket, users will be able to run an Ethernet cable into the set-top box.

The new service is to be launched in Manchester on Monday, with London and Leeds to follow shortly.

Britain is one of the worst-off nations for access to broadband services, according to industry studies, and the government has targeted high-speed Internet connectivity as vital to the UK's competitiveness in the high-tech sector.

Over 8,000 people pre-registered even before the marketing campaign has kicked off," said a spokesman for ntl, the larger of Britain's two cable firms. "It shows the almost pent-up demand that's out there."

Installation will cost between £17.50 and £100 depending on whether the customer chooses a "do-it-yourself" installation option. The service costs £25 per month.

Ntl had 26,800 customers using standalone cable modems as of March.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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