UK cable provider, General Cable Plc, is planning a link up with Worldgate Communications Inc of Pennsylvania and Scientific- Atlanta Europe Limited to trial a new kind of internet TV service aimed at giving cable TV users access to the web without the use of a PC. The company which has broadband networks in Yorkshire and West London is in talks with Worldgate and Scientific with a view to trialing such a service in the UK in early 1998. Officials at internet service provider Worldgate claim that from ‘a thousand feet’ the service appears similar to Microsoft’s Web TV package, Netchannel’s service, set top appliances and network computers. All these developments allow consumers to surf the net and send email using a TV instead of a PC. However Worldgate claims there are a number of crucial differences between the projects. Where Web TV and others all require the consumer to purchase an additional box, costing somewhere between $300-$500 Worldgate requires no such consumer purchase and uses the standard Cable TV (CATV) converter already supplied by the CATV operator, providing the programs HBO, MTV etc. The Worldgate service also avoids telephone network bandwidth limitations by utilizing the CATV infrastructure at speeds that are 3-6 times faster than Telco access. Users of the cable service will have to wait just three seconds to access the internet, claimed officials at the three companies – at present it takes half a minute. Because Worldgate uses the same box for internet access as video programs, we can provide Channel Hyperlinking where a consumer can go directly from a video program or commercial to a web page related to the program, with a single push of a button, said Dave Wachob vice president and general manager at Worldgate. Andy Rogers of Cable and Wireless, the UK’s largest cable operator doubts whether General Cable can live up to its promise however. They will need to redevelop their entire network he told the Express newspaper earlier this week.
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