NTL signs up millionth broadband customer

The cable firm bullishly claims to be Broadband Britain's 'driving force', and says most Net users will be on broadband in two years

NTL announced on Wednesday that it has signed up its one-millionth broadband customer, demonstrating that UK Web users are flocking to get high-speed Internet connections over cable as well as ADSL.

The cable operator, which now has more broadband users than narrowband ones, forecast that the majority of Web users will be using a broadband connection by 2006. By 2010, 50 percent of all homes will be on broadband, NTL predicted.

Aizad Hussain, managing director of NTL home, claimed that NTL was the "driving force" behind the UK's booming broadband market, despite the fact that less than half of UK homes can connect to its network.

"We helped create the broadband market, inventing multiple tiers of service and are proud to be the first ISP to have over one million homes connected. Our broadband services are simply second to none in terms of value, quality and convenience," said Hussain in a statement.

NTL and fellow cable firm Telewest got their act together broadband-wise much sooner than BT; a few years ago their prices were much lower, and the availability of cable broadband compared favourably to that of ADSL.

But given the dramatic improvement of BT's performance in this area, with initiatives such as its registration scheme for areas without access to its ADSL service, it's questionable whether the cable operators can claim the same influence over Broadband Britain as they enjoyed in the past.

NTL's one-millionth broadband connection was bought by a family in Stockport. Paul and Jill Horsfield plan to use the service for e-commerce, research, and to help their children with schoolwork.

"The Internet is just really convenient, hence the need we now have for broadband," explained Paul Horsfield, who also said that being NTL's millionth broadband customer was "just amazing".

NTL's achievement, which comes shortly after BT signed up its two-millionth wholesale ADSL user, is slightly muddied because the hundreds of thousands of customers using its 150 Kilobit per second (Kbps) service, which critics say is too slow to count as "true broadband".

In its third-quarter financial results earlier this month, BT said that BT Retail had 796,000 broadband customers. BT Retail includes both BT Broadband and BT Yahoo broadband.