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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 10 September, 2002, 09:31 GMT 10:31 UK
UK races to join net fast lane
Cable communications around the world
UK is bottom of the European league table
The UK Government remains upbeat about the prospects for broadband despite a survey showing that Britain is lagging far behind other European countries.

Only 14% of UK homes have a broadband connection compared to 45% of German internet users and 43% of Swedish ones, according to research firm Nielsen/NetRatings.

Even France, which has a far lower level of internet penetration, is outdoing the UK on broadband, with 22% of net users connected to high-speed services.

The figures cast doubts on the government's target to be the best place in the western world for broadband by 2005.

More competitive

But the Department of Trade and Industry said the UK could catch up with the rest of Europe.

"With strong competition between cable operators and BT and at retail level in reselling ADSL, companies are signing up 20,000 new customers each week, a greater rate than take-up of mobile phones at an equivalent stage," said a spokesperson for the DTI.

Broadband league table
Germany 45%
Sweden 43%
Netherlands 41%
Spain 25%
France 22%
Italy 20%
UK 14%
Officials admit that the UK was slower than its European neighbours to launch broadband.

But they say that pressure from government to ensure competition would ultimately benefit consumers.

"The UK has stronger competition than other countries such as Germany and Italy where, yes, broadband take-up is higher at the moment, but over 90% is provided by one operator.

"This means prices in the UK are coming down while on the continent many are rising," the spokesperson said.

Target 'absurd'

Since BT cut prices earlier this year, the broadband market in the UK has been looking healthier, but it still has a long way to go said Nielsen/NetRatings analyst Tom Ewing.

Todmorden, W.Yorks
Todmorden: Looking forward to broadband
"This time last year 5% of British surfers were using a high-speed internet connection," he said.

"What we are seeing here is an improvement but not much of one," he added.

Mr Ewing said he was sceptical about the government ambitions for broadband Britain.

"The target is absurd if you set it against current rates of growth," said he.

Rural access

The marketing of broadband in the UK is set to step up a notch this autumn as BT launches its direct no-frills broadband service for 27 per month.

There are also several operators now offering high-speed internet via the phone line (ADSL) at below 20 a month.

To help the third of UK households which have no access to ADSL, BT has set up a pre-registration scheme by which it promises to wire up remote telephone exchanges if enough people sign up for broadband.

Todmorden in West Yorkshire has become the first place in the UK to reach its target.

Residents should be able to get hold of broadband within the next few months.

See also:

09 Sep 02 | Technology
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