Telewest delays joint venture with CWC

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The Independent Online
The race to launch the first digital interactive television service slowed yesterday when the UK's two largest cable operators revealed they may delay the start of their planned joint service by up to six months, writes Chris Godsmark.

The move follows this week's news that British Interactive Broadcasting (BIB), the digital satellite venture involving British Telecom and BSkyB, will not reach consumers until spring next year. Graham Wallace, chief executive of Cable & Wireless Communications and Stephen Davidson, chief executive of Telewest, have discussed postponing their digital cable service from the planned start date of October or November, to coincide with Sky's launch.

Mr Wallace said yesterday: "Given that the external competitive environment has changed we're looking at whether we should change our timetable. We certainly won't launch after Sky though." Mr Davidson said a full launch in the autumn was now just one of several possible options. "We've only had 24 hours to absorb the news from BIB. It may be prudent to have an early but smaller trial launch to work out whether the systems are right."

BIB had hoped to begin broadcasting up to 200 digital entertainment, shopping and information channels this year but was hit by delays to the launch of a new Astra satellite.

Telewest also cast doubt on whether BIB set-top boxes, which decode programmes, would work with cable. BIB claimed an additional component would allow cable access.