BSkyB aims to top broadband market

British Sky Broadcasting expects to overtake Orange in the highly competitive internet access market within three months, the group said yesterday as it revealed it had signed up its millionth broadband customer.

Della Bushell, BSkyB's director of broadband and telephony, said the group was "directly on target" to be one of the UK's top three internet access providers, with 3m broadband subscribers, by 2010.

Less than 14 months after Sky Broadband began, the service was signing customers faster than any other UK broadband provider, the company said. With 1m subscribers, it stands in sixth place, behind BT, Virgin Media, Carphone Warehouse, Tiscali and Orange.

The 284,000 subscribers added since June 30 represent a similar growth rate to that seen in the previous three months. Full details on the first quarter of BSkyB's financial year are expected on Friday.

The group's guidance that 3m of its expected 10m customers by 2010 would be taking broadband does not include its recently unveiled plans for a "pick-and-mix" of broadband, pay-TV and telephony products under the Picnic brand, Ms Bushell said.

She said 30 per cent of its broadband customers were taking a basic package in which broadband is provided free, but 70 per cent were paying - more than the group had initially expected - and 60 per cent had switched from other providers but 40 per cent were new to broadband. Customers were less concerned with having the fastest connection than with reliability.

BSkyB plans to spend £400m rolling out broadband over three years and has installed its equipment in more than 70 per cent of telephone exchanges. The pace at which it moves to cover the rest of the country would depend in part on regulators' approach to BT's charges for taking control of the landlines running to homes, Ms Bushell indicated.

The group has given no details of the profitability of its broadband product, but Ms Bushell said: "The econ-omics will keep improving as we add subscribers."

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