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BT has started flogging "Freeview" digital TV set top boxes (STBs), the company admitted today.

Punters have been able to buy the STBs from the telco's Web site since the beginning of the month although the telco has yet to announce its latest venture.

The monster telco is flogging two STBs - one priced at £89.99 and offering around 30-odd free-to-view digital channels including BBC, ITV, Sky Sports News, QVC and UK History - which the telco says should appeal to those wanting to try out digital TV for the first time.

A second box, which costs £129.99 - comes complete with Net access and email, enabling users to go online via their TV and a phone connection. Apparently, this appeals to punters who want to take their "first steps on the Internet or to have casual access via their TV".

Freeview enables punters to access some digital TV and radio channels for a one-off fee simply by buying an STB/adapter and using their existing TV aerial.

Details of BT's move into digital TV were leaked out in a report by the FT ahead of an announcement expected later this week. It reported that BT is on the verge of announcing a pay-per-view TV service combining Internet and broadband content.

A spokesman for BT - which has clearly been caught on the hop by today's newspaper report - said that the pay-per-view option was "quite a long way off in the future".

So, how does BT's Freeview deal sit with its relationship with satellite TV outfit Sky?

According to its FAQs, it's all about meeting differing needs of punters and is "intended to complement our other offers rather than be in direct competition". ®

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