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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 10:41 GMT
Stakes raised in fast net race
People watching TV and using internet in living room
High-definition TV will depend on fast networks
Cable firm NTL has been trialling a faster type of broadband that could pave the way for speeds of up to 18 megabits per second for net users.

Currently the fastest broadband on offer in the UK is 8Mbps - although most homes do not have connections of more than 1Mbps.

Last month, NTL tested the viability of so-called ADSL2+.

Now the trial will be extended to allow for the on-demand streaming of high-definition TV (HDTV).

Exploiting the network

BT is also set to trial ADSL2+ later in the year.

New flavours of ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) will be crucial to the delivery of services such as high-definition TV and video-on-demand.

Even though NTL is a cable company its network also has the copper wires needed to provide ADSL.

One of the issues with the technology is that the speeds it can deliver deteriorates the farther the home is away from the network's access point.

In this, NTL claims an advantage over BT because 95% of the 7.9 million homes its network passes are within 1km of the access point compared to 5% of BT's customers.


NTL is determined to go head to head with the telco as broadband gets faster and customers demand more applications and it is prepared to exploit its network to the maximum.

"Our fibre-rich network means that we have the potential to provide customers with a multiple of services such as high-definition TV, PC broadband surfing, console gaming, VoIP, and music downloading, operating simultaneously through a single high speed IP connection," a spokesperson said.

France ahead

BT has been more cautious about its rollout of ADSL2+, partly because of the issue around distance.

Ian Fogg, an analyst with Jupiter Research, believes competitive pressure from rivals such as Wanadoo and UK Online could see BT rolling out super-fast net services more quickly.

This would put the UK on a more even footing with France, which already offers super-fast services.

"BT still has lots it can do with existing ADSL and for consumers who don't know about the market 8Mbps looks wonderful until they realise that there is stuff available in Europe that is much faster and not much more expensive," he said.

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18 Jan 05 |  Technology

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