Cable TV companies take the fight to BT

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The Independent Online
THE NUMBER of subscribers to telephone services run by cable television companies will more than double this year to about 680,000, according to the Cable Television Association. Cable is widely viewed as the main threat to BT in local telephony.

The CTA also expects a further round of mergers and acquisitions among UK cable television companies in 1994. Last year 35 per cent of the industry changed hands. Large buyers included Nynex and Telewest of the US and Singapore Telecom.

Recently it emerged that City analysts expect at least two stock market listings of cable companies in 1994.

A report by NatWest Markets said about pounds 2bn would be raised through debt financing in 1994. Garry Stephen, of NatWest Markets, said it was now realised that the economics of cable television had been transformed by the companies' success in selling telephony.

Richard Woollam, director general of the CTA, said yesterday Britain's cable industry was ripe for the combined delivery of entertainment, telephony and information services. 'We will deliver what everyone else is talking about. The networks we are building are future-proof.'

He attacked BT for publicising future services, including special telephone rates for groups of friends and the possible delivery of video- on-demand over the telephone wire. The cable industry believes BT is pre-announcing services to confuse customers and to undermine the confidence of investors in cable. Mr Woollam said the CTA had expressed its concern to Oftel, the telecoms regulator.

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