One million broadband homes for BSkyB, but does the service fill the need for speed, asks Julian Clover?
Broadband internet access is now supposed to be a commodity business. Really? BSkyB this week announced that it had signed up one million customers to its broadband service and a significant 70% of these upgraded to one of the accompanying pay options.
For much of the past decade cable has used broadband, and before it telephony, as the means to build both subscribers and revenue. Personal video recorders, successfully deployed by Sky, were put to one side in favour of the more lucrative high speed internet.
The trouble is that now Sky has both a successful personal video recorder, in the real world consumers have named the Sky+ as previous generations named the Hoover, and it now also has a successful broadband product. This leaves aside the deployment of multiroom and high definition.
In theory Sky could conceivably end up with enough broadband connections to match its 8 million plus installed base. Free broadband for those who just want to receive emails and do a bit of surfing, paid options for the more adventurous, with the bonus of being at a relative discount.
But if Sky’s technology appeals, at least initially, to the high-end consumer who wants everything that silicon can deliver will the broadband speeds be enough to keep them happy? Sky’s top speed is currently 16 Mbps, for a bargain £10 to Sky subscribers, whereas Virgin Media currently offers 10 Mbps with the prospect of a near term 50 Mbps for those who want to navigate the world of triple play for the best telecommunications package. A 4 Mbps package on its own will set you back £25, enough to make sure Sky doesn’t lose customers to cable simply on the strength of faster downloads.
Britain, which has seems to be getting out of the delusion that it is the digital leader, is behind other countries when it comes to broadband speed. Cable, in all territories, will be banking on the EuroDOCSIS and potentially 100 Mbps to lead the charge against ADSL. There is clearly more to Sky’s broadband play than just giving its customers high speed internet, ultimately acting as a means to deliver an expanded on demand proposition, making broadband more than just a numbers game.