Viva Tiscali: Italians take on the big battalions of broadband in Britain

Two years ago, the Italian internet service provider Tiscali boasted that, by about now, it would rival Freeserve and AOL in the UK. At the trough of the technology slump, the idea was dismissed by analysts as fanciful; the perceived wisdom was that only the biggest companies would survive.

And so it proved. The UK market is today dominated by the big three: BT, Freeserve and AOL. But Tiscali, a name barely known in the UK outside its 1.4 million customer base, is now putting up a genuine challenge to the established giants. Created by bolting together nine different companies - including World Online, Liberty Surf and Line-One - Tiscali took its boldest step last week by offering a cut-price broadband package.

Rivals rubbished it as a fudge because, while three times faster than old-fashioned dial-up internet access, it isn't as quick as "true" broadband. But at £15.99 a month, the product is aimed squarely at AOL and BT customers who pay roughly the same amount of money for unlimited dial-up internet access.

"I've been quite amused by the debate surrounding our launch. As far as I am concerned, this is broadband. We know that there is latent demand out there for this product," says Mary Turner, the chief executive of Tiscali UK, who was promoted to the post earlier this month.

The launch will herald a new push by Tiscali to become the UK's number three internet company in 12 to 18 months. If it is to meet its target then Tiscali will need to double its customer numbers from 1.4 million to nearly 3 million. And Ms Turner admits it may need to buy more companies to meet this goal. "If there is a good purchase out there, we will make it," she says.

Tiscali - which plans to launch another three products, including a wi-fi (wireless broadband) device before Christmas - also realises that it must improve its branding.

The marketing strategy will be ramped up, Ms Turner says. The company has bought a database of electronic addresses and, over the next few weeks, Tiscali will send out emails advertising its new products. "We will certainly not be spamming," she says. "All the people we will email have opted in" to receiving marketing material.

Tiscali will also promote its brand on web pages before it launches, she says, "a big advertising campaign" in around three months.

Like most internet firms operating in the UK, Tiscali has a long list of gripes about how BT has been allowed to maintain its stranglehold on the UK market. In particular, Ms Turner says that BT "has made every effort to restrict" competition, and this has prompted Tiscali to lobby MPs, the telecoms regulator, Oftel, and even the e-commerce minister, Stephen Timms.

But in a perverse sort of way, the old restrictions may just have played into Tiscali's hands. With signs of the markets now opening up to genuine competition, its push in the UK could be well timed.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Joe Cocker performing on the Stravinski hall stage during the Montreux Jazz Festival, in Montreux, Switzerland in 2002
musicHe 'turned my song into an anthem', says former Beatle
News
Clarke Carlisle
sport
Sport
footballStoke City vs Chelsea match report
Arts and Entertainment
David Hasselhof in Peter Pan
theatreThe US stars who've taken to UK panto, from Hasselhoff to Hall
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
News
newsIt was due to be auctioned off for charity
Life and Style
A still from a scene cut from The Interview showing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un's death.
tech
Environment
Sir David Attenborough
environment... as well as a plant and a spider
Voices
'That's the legal bit done. Now on to the ceremony!'
voicesThe fight for marriage equality isn't over yet, says Siobhan Fenton
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operations Manager

£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'