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@Home readies Dutch service

The leading U.S. cable modem service is expected to announce that Dutch subsidiary @Home Nederland will begin service next month.

@Home Network is about to go Dutch.

@Home, the leading cable modem service in the United States, is expected to announce soon that Dutch subsidiary @Home Nederland will begin service next month, according to people familiar with the company's plans.

@Home also will also roll out an agreement with a third cable affiliate in the Netherlands, cable operator N.V. Nutsbedrijven Maastricht, these people said.

The moves continue @Home's global push. The company also has a joint venture in Japan, in addition to a strong presence in Canada.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed details have surfaced that the high-speed Net-over-cable company is in negotiations with an Australian cable operator for a similar joint venture.

@Home Nederland's initial rollout will be available to as many as 126,000 households in four towns through CasTel and Palet Kabelcom, @Home's original Dutch partners. Nutsbedrijven Maastricht cable systems are expected to be brought online in the fall.

@Home already has signed exclusive deals with 14 of the largest domestic cable companies and ended the first quarter with 460,000 subscribers, better than rival Road Runner, a similar data-over-cable service.

But the company is striving for 8 million subscribers and $2 billion in revenue by 2002, lofty goals that would surely benefit from having a large global audience to draw upon.

Earlier this month, @Home announced a Japanese joint venture as part of its ongoing efforts to expand internationally. @Home also has Net access arrangements with four Canadian cable companies.

Separately, speculation persists that @Home is in talks with Optus, a Sydney-based cable operator, to use the company's state-of-the-art cable network to deliver broadband services to as many as 2.2 million Australian homes. Optus serves more than 200,000 pay TV customers.

@Home executives declined to comment about the rumored negotiations with the Australian provider.

Some analysts say partnering with @Home is a no-brainer for international cable companies looking to offer high-speed Internet service.

"Obviously if you're a foreign cable operator, you have to go with @Home. Road Runner has nothing ? @Home has years' lead time on Road Runner," said Kristen Koh, an analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston.

Road Runner does have one cable affiliate in Newfoundland, Canada, but has yet to announce a larger international expansion, according to spokeswoman Sandy Colony.

But CSFB's Koh downplayed the import of @Home's reported discussions in Australia.

"I think the Japanese venture was much more significant because the [cable] market is more mature," she said.