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U.K. trails Europe in broadband uptake

Despite efforts to increase broadband users in the United Kingdom, only 9 percent of households there have a high-speed connection to the Web.

The number of households with broadband Internet connections in the United Kingdom is lower than any other country in Europe, according to the latest research from Nielsen/NetRatings.

Only 9 percent of U.K. households have a high-speed connection to the Net, compared to 39 percent in Germany and 33 percent in Sweden. Even France, which has a far lower overall level of Net penetration, has a higher percentage of households using broadband.

"This time last year 5 percent of British surfers were using a high-speed Internet connection," Tom Ewing, Internet analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings, said in a statement.

"What we're seeing here is an improvement, but not much of one," Ewing said. "Broadband is growing in this country but the government's stated target of being the G7 leader in broadband connectivity by 2005 is absurd if you set it against current rates of growth.

"This summer we did see a lot of aggressive marketing of broadband, and there are signs that the uptake is rising, but it'll take more than just advertising to catch up with markets like Germany," he said.

BT Wholesale has kicked off a marketing campaign designed to increase interest in its broadband registration scheme. At the start of July BT initiated a program to allow would-be broadband customers in areas not asymmetric digital subscriber line (ADSL)-enabled to register their interest in receiving the service--a program that has nevertheless been beset by controversy.

The company has reported that 13 percent of orders in mid-July were directly attributable to these marketing activities, amounting to around 1,560 customers per week. As a result, 18,500 customers have already been connected, and the company expects the figure to reach around 40,000.

The Nielsen/NetRatings figures are in line with research released last week by analyst firm Point Topic, which revealed that the United Kingdom doesn't even figure in the top 20 countries worldwide when it comes to high-speed DSL Net connections. Of the 26 million connections around the world, the United Kingdom has around 300,000.

However, according to figures from U.K. regulators known as the Office of Telecommunications, at the end of June, 709,000 people and small businesses were signed up for broadband connections--up 113 percent from 332 users at the beginning of the year.

Silicon.com's Graham Hayday reported from London.