The UK’s burgeoning e-commerce industry was this week given a
further boost with the news that two operators are to offer free
The US search engine AltaVista made the biggest splash since the launch
of Freeserve in September 1998. It plans to offer UK consumers access to
the web for pounds 10 a year and a one-off sign-up fee of pounds 36.
In response, the cable company NTL went one step further the following
day by offering unlimited internet access free of subscription, call
connection and internet call charges.
While Freeserve and its copy-cat competitors offered free internet
access, consumers still had to pay for their telephone charges, with the
service provider taking a cut of the telephone charge.
AltaVista aims to pay for its scheme through advertising and
But rivals are predicting that it will incur huge losses when it
launches in three months.
NTL will be first to market with a launch scheduled for six weeks’
However, the next few weeks are certain to see market announcements from
AltaVista’s move follows the January appointment of Andy Mitchell, the
former head of the internet advertising company DoubleClick UK, as its
Mitchell said: ’The UK is still lagging behind the US when it comes to
exploiting the internet. AltaVista is hoping to increase the number of
people online and the number of internet-related jobs, which in turn
will boost the British economy.’