Sky's successful drive into broadband is set to shift up a gear in November when it will launch a package aimed at the UK's 10 million-plus Freeview households.
Sky Broadband launched last year after the group bought Easynet, but currently only supplies existing TV customers as part of a bundle. It offers up to theoretical 16MBit/s ADSL via the Easynet local loop unbundled network for £10 per month. Non-TV customers can expect to pay a bit more.
Multiple sources inside the company have indicated that Sky will pitch its standalone ISP service under a new brand called Picnic. Customers will be supplied with a Netgear DG834GT v4 router, which is currently being tested by Sky's engineers for any glitches when connected to its network.
Internet "brand protection" outfit MarkMonitor has registered a series of domains including picnicbroadband.co.uk and picnicuser.co.uk. MarkMonitor ran a similar landgrab operation for Sky's bundled broadband service.
We contacted Sky for their response to the leaks. Its press office sent us this doublespeak:
Sky is the UK's fastest growing broadband provider and we're always looking at ways to bring quality and value to even more customers. However, no plans are confirmed at this time.
Such equivocations do little to force the genie back into the bottle.
Sky's broadband rollout has been relatively smooth compared to other big firms who have tried to muscle in over the last 18 months. O2 has delayed its launch twice and Orange has repeatedly failed on technical issues.
The impending all-out assault by Sky on the entire broadband market is sure to increase competition in an already fierce market. Opening up its broadband network to non-TV customers will new fronts in its war with fellow communications titans BT and Virgin Media. ®