NTL set to buy Telewest

The UK will have just a single cable operator if today's announcement of a $6bn (£3.5bn) acquisition of Telewest by rival NTL gains regulatory approval.

The UK will have just a single cable operator if today's announcement of a $6bn (£3.5bn) acquisition of Telewest by rival NTL gains regulatory approval.

The proposed merger would result in a £3.4bn turnover company, creating the second largest telco after BT, with 4.3 million subscribers.

The deal comes after over a decade of consolidation in the UK cable industry has left NTL and Telewest the sole operators providing end-user services.

Both companies are struggling under a weight of debt, although both have made important contributions to building the UK’s broadband network, using cable modem technology to carry voice, data and video services to both businesses and consumers.

NTL and Telewest claim their combined networks serve 50% of the UK’s households, but huge swathes of the UK are untouched by cable. The two firms have a combined residential customer base of five million.

The pair said the combined company would be the largest provider of residential broadband services with 2.5 million subscribers, the second-largest pay-TV provider with 3.3 million customers, and the second-largest fixed telephony provider with 4.3 million.

But if the new company intends to expand these figures significantly, it may have to extend the reach of the UK cable map to other towns and cities.

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