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Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 17:11 GMT
NTL boosts broadband plans
Teenager sitting at a computer
NTL wants more customers to sign up for broadband
Cable giant NTL has signed up a small US software company to help convert UK consumers to its high-speed internet service.

BroadJump, known as a broadband accelerator, will license three software products to NTL "to improve the consumer's experience of broadband".

BroadJump products
Virtual Truck Qualifier:
Ensures that customer PCs can handle broadband
Virtual Truck Installer:
Provides customers with on-screen instructions on how to install broadband
CorrectConnect:
Monitors customer's use of broadband, identifies possible problems and passes information to NTL call centre
The products will allow consumers to install high-speed, or broadband, internet access on their home computers or digital TV setboxes.

In theory, the products should make the installation process pain-free and relatively quick - on average less than 10 minutes.

NTL is currently having a rough ride in the markets and saw its shares plunge by 15% in New York on Monday.

The company is struggling with more than 12bn of acquisition-related debt and there are widespread rumours that it will be forced to undergo a financial restructuring.

However, an NTL spokeswoman said the debt problems would not affect its broadband strategy.

Customer satisfaction

One of the three BroadJump products will also identify whether a customer's computer can handle high-speed access before going down the route of installation.

Matt Tormollen, a vice president at BroadJump
Matt Tormollen believes BroadJump can improve NTL's customer service

"Our goal is to deliver the best broadband experience possible," said Bill Goodland, director of internet at NTL.

In some cases, the products also eliminate the need for NTL technicians to carry out the installation on the customer's premises.

Mr Goodland added that the deal with BroadJump would ensure that "customer satisfaction is top notch".

In the past NTL has also battled with customer service problems, particularly for its unmetered internet access, called NTLworld.

'A strong economic case'

Results of recent broadband trials by NTL in Glasgow and Manchester showed that customers who used the BroadJump products were more satisfied than those who did not.

NTL broadband installation costs
For cable users:
-25 flat fee
For digi TV setbox users:
-free (if PC has an ethernet card)
-30 without an ethernet card
-100 if customer wants a technician to install broadband

"There was a reduction in the number of calls to the service centre, and in the duration of the calls," Matt Tormollen, a vice president at BroadJump, told BBC News Online.

"The results were overwhelmingly positive," he added.

An NTL spokeswoman said the trials showed that there was a "strong economic case" for using BroadJump.

Coming soon...?

NTL will make the new products available to every customer using its high-speed internet services in February.

The cable company will pay BroadJump a licensing fee for the software, but will not pass on any extra cost to consumers.

Currently, customers can pay 14.99 a month for a high-speed internet service, but are also obliged to take a digital TV and phone from NTL for an additional monthly fee, starting at 14.99.

NTL launched its high-speed internet service in October. Customers are able to access the web at speeds of 128Kbits/s - roughly twice the normal speed.

The company also offers broadband access at speeds of up to 512Kbits/s for 24.99 a month, plus the additional TV and phone package.

However, only 4.7 million homes are currently enabled to take either of the services.

By the end of 2002, NTL hopes to increase this to 6.6 million.

NTL had signed up 100,000 users to its high-speed internet services by the end of last November.

'Empowering' the consumer

BroadJump, a privately held company, is based in Austin, Texas. It was set up in 1998 by former Cisco Systems employees.

The company already provides broadband software for AOL Time Warner, AT&T Broadband, SBC Communications and Sprint. NTL is its first client in the UK.

"Our philosophy is to improve the consumer's experience with broadband and to empower the consumer," said Mr Tormollen.

See also:

18 Dec 01 | TV and Radio
It's hell for NTL
16 Dec 01 | Business
NTL debt crisis deepens
10 Dec 01 | Business
NTL cuts 2,000 more UK jobs
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