Brit cabler bows broadband

Blueyonder offers 'Net access, interactive TV

LONDON — Telewest Communications has become the first U.K. cabler to launch its broadband digital service, dubbed Blueyonder.

Telewest is offering high-speed Internet access for £50 ($80) a month, as well as interactive TV services, including banking, travel and shopping, from more than 60 partners.

Company confirmed that its existing digital TV service, launched last October, has already signed up 110,000 subscribers, with a target of 500,000 by year’s end. The old analog cable TV service will be discontinued within three years.

Telewest reported a 47% increase in sales to $1.27 billion, while earnings before tax, interest, depreciation and amortization rose 52% to $355 million. But pre-tax losses deepened to $848 million, against $502 million in 1998.

The European Commission announced March 22 that it is extending its antitrust investigation into Microsoft’s acquisition of a 29.7% stake in Telewest because of concerns that the computer software giant could restrict choice in digital set-top box technology. Telewest’s other main shareholder is Liberty Media.

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