UK's broadband boom rockets

Latest figures from BT, NTL and Telewest show that Broadband Britain is growing at a much higher rate than had recently been thought

The UK's broadband market is booming, with an estimated 34,000 new customers signing up for a high-speed Internet connection each week. Just a month ago, reports put the rate at 20,000 new connections a week.

Latest figures from BT, NTL and Telewest show that, after the disappointment of previous years, broadband is one of the success stories of 2002.

BT Wholesale, whose ADSL products are resold by around 200 Internet service providers, is currently adding more new broadband connections than either NTL or Telewest individually. BT Wholesale announced last week that new orders are running at 16,000 per week.

According to their own latest figures, the UK's two cable companies are collectively matching BT Wholesale for broadband growth.

NTL is understood to have gained 70,000 broadband customers in the last six weeks -- a take-up rate of almost 12,000 per week -- and Telewest is selling "in excess of 1,000 connections per working day (Monday to Saturday)", which works out at a take-up rate of over 6,000 per week.

These figures suggest that there are now over 1.1 million broadband users in the UK -- a far cry from the start of 2002 when there were just over 300,000. Britain hit the one million broadband user mark at the start of October.

The figures also confirm comments made by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) last month, which reported that broadband growth in the UK is faster than in France, Germany and Italy.

One reason for this boom up is the amount of broadband advertising that is currently running.

BT recently spent £10m on a broadband awareness campaign, and it is currently funding a £23m campaign for BT Broadband -- the "no-frills" product offered by BT Retail.

NTL, Telewest, and ISPs such as AOL, Freeserve and BTopenworld who offer ADSL are all also spending money promoting their broadband services.

"Everyone's basically piggybacking off each other's adverts, and the industry is benefiting from the increased awareness of broadband," a BT spokesman told ZDNet News.

Telewest agrees that adverts that promote one company or technology actually help the whole sector. "Yes, I think we're benefiting from BT's adverts too," a Telewest spokesman said.

Other key events this year that have spurred the broadband boom include the launch of a self-installation ADSL product, and BT's decision to slash the cost of its wholesale broadband products.

According to its third-quarter financial results, released yesterday, NTL had 380,600 broadband customers at the end of September. It is understood to now have around 450,000 broadband customers.

BT announced last week that it has 451,000 wholesale ADSL customers.

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