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Telecoms regulator David Edmonds claims the UK is catching up in the race for broadband despite a sluggish start.

Addressing the Social Market Foundation, an independent think-tank, in London yesterday the head of Oftel said the UK now had almost 500,000 high speed Internet users and that he was "confident" that the numbers would continue to grow.

Quoting the latest figures he said cable modem users numbered more than 280,000, with more than 180,000 signed up to ADSL services.

Said Mr Edmonds: "The rate of take up in the UK compares well to other countries. For example, current UK take up rates are comparable to France, despite the fact that both cable modem and DSL services were launched earlier in France."

Mr Edmonds said that the UK now has "one of the largest markets in Europe for cable modem" and that "prices for UK cable modem services have been amongst the lowest in Europe".

He added that BT's recent wholesale price reduction are "bringing retail ADSL prices down, much closer to cable modems".

Looking ahead it is Oftel's long term aim to achieve sustainable competition without the need for regulatory intervention, he said.

Yesterday, a report found that Europe has some of the most expensive ADSL products in the world. ®

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