Satellite broadcaster BSkyB, the UK’s largest pay-TV provider and a growing force in the residential internet access market, says that around a million of its TV customers have registered for its so-called ‘free’ broadband service launched in July. Of these, the company says it has had 113,000 definite orders, of which 74,000 have been connected so far; 88% of the connections are taking services via its unbundled local loop (ULL) network which currently covers 36% of UK households. BSkyB is offering the free broadband service to existing customers in phases. At the end of October 2006 the company had a total 109,000 broadband subscribers, including 35,000 customers at its recently acquired ISP Easynet. At that date BSkyB reported 204,000 customers for its telephony service, saying growth had accelerated since the launch of broadband.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, in July 2006 BSkyB revealed plans to invest a higher-than-expected GBP400 million (USD731 million) in its expansion into the broadband market over the next three years. BSkyB is utilising the Easynet ULL broadband network it acquired for GBP211 million in October 2005 to provide all new and existing TV customers with Sky Broadband Base, a free ADSL connection offering download speeds of up to 2Mbps, capped at 2GB of data per month. It will also offer connections of up to 8Mbps (Sky Broadband Mid), with a 40GB data allowance, for an additional GBP5 a month, or up to 16Mbps without data limits for GBP10 a month (Sky Broadband Max). Taking a leaf out of the book of rival Orange (formerly Wanadoo), all customers will receive a free wireless router. ULL coverage is expected to reach 70% of households by the end of 2007. Users outside of the ULL coverage area have to pay GBP17 a month for Sky Broadband Connect, which offers the same features as the Mid package, until their local exchange is unbundled. Other hidden costs include a GBP40 broadband connection charge for the Base package, which falls to GBP20 for the Mid product and is free for Max users; all products require a minimum twelve-month contract.