The race is on for broadband

Cable operator Telewest Communications is to go head to head with BT in the race to offer high speed Internet access it is reported Wednesday.

The race is well and truly underway with BT finally announcing commercial roll-out of ADSL last week. Throwing down the gauntlet to Telewest a BT spokesman said: "We look with interest to see if Telewest can match our bold plans for roll-out."

Partnering with Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, Telewest will offer access up to 100 times faster than conventional modems. For the 1.4 million households that use Telewest services, Internet access will be via a portal featuring Microsoft content.

Senior analyst with Dataquest Bhawani Shankar believes BT will be worried over Telewest's announcement. "They will certainly be worried. There is a lot of thinking going on at BT," he said. He is convinced cable modem will have far greater penetration in Europe than ADSL and is pessimistic about DSL roll-out as cable flourishes on the back of digital and interactive TV services. "With ADSL it is harder to guarantee data rates and harder to provide end-users with the services that cable modem can," Shankar said. Shankar thinks BT is concerned about cannibalising existing ISDN services with its ADSL offering and may be forced to sell ADSL wholesale to smaller networks and ISPs.

Eric Owen, analyst with research firm IDC believes there will be room in the market for both cable and telecoms operators. "Cable solutions will be slightly cheaper but ADSL services will go direct to the home offering more security," he said. "Initially they will be aimed at different markets, with ADSL targeting the SME environment and cable the residential," he said.

Telewest had no comment on its plans. An announcement is expected Thursday.

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