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Sky mulls 'free broadband' - report

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Sky has become the latest outfit to be linked with a move to provide cheap or "free" broadband, according to the Guardian.

The satellite TV outfit will cut the ribbon on its broadband access service later this year following its £211m acquisition of ISP Easynet. With a phone and broadband service bolted on to its existing TV operation, this would place it head-to-head with quad-play cableco NTL/Telewest, which is buying Virgin Mobile for £960m, and telco BT, which is launching its broadband TV service in autumn.

According to The Guardian, execs are mulling a number of ideas including free broadband access to premium subscribers. Another option would be to offer cheap broadband. Either way, no decision has yet been made.

Senior industry sources told El Reg they are not surprised by news of Sky's plans. Indeed, at such an early stage it's likely that all pricing options will be on the table for discussion ahead of a final decision prior to launch. Whether they are actually adopted remains to be seen.

Last month it was reported that Carphone Warehouse is considering free broadband as part of a bundled phone package.

The retailer-cum-telco is expected to release details of its broadband strategy this month following confirmation earlier this year that it plans to press ahead with a £45m investment in local loop unbundling.

In February, BT played down reports that it is planning to offer punters a "free broadband dialtone" when its new 21st Century Network (21CN) is rolled out over the next couple of years.

A spokesman for the UK's dominant fixed line telco distanced himself from the report, saying broadband "would not be free". It may be that a "broadband dialtone" may be available for rental - much like current arrangements for fixed line phone - but it is "not to be free", he told us. ®

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