The response to NTL’s broadband speed raise last month has come from UK Online, and it ups the ante considerably. The ISP's Broadband 8000 service boasts 8Mb download speeds, 16 times faster than the current average among broadband services.

Chris Stening, UK Online general manager, says the offer represents "a big leap forward" for broadband.

"A typical family with two adults and two children is currently sharing a 512kb service. This will basically give them 2Mb each," he said.

In order to help the family share out the generous bandwidth, Stening says Broadband 8000 "includes WiFi as standard", although the ISP's wireless ethernet router will set you back £69.99.

(If you already have a compatible router, you may be able to avoid this, but the UK Online can't guarantee its helpdesk staff will be able to assist you in case of any problems.)

On top of that cost there is a £50 one-off setup fee and a monthly fee of £39.99, so this is no bargain package – only households that demand a lot from their internet connection will get real value from it.

Those that do like to max the megabits, though, will have no trouble seeing the benefits of 8Mb maximum download speeds – MP3s will download in seconds, streamed video should be smooth and TV-like and online gaming will work like never before.

Indeed, UK Online plans to begin offering TV and video on demand at some time in 2005, along with VoIP phone calls.

In addition, upload speeds are 400kb maximum, meaning your byte-heavy emails full of holiday snaps or music files will be off on there way that bit more quickly as well.

However, before you get too excited, you should check you live in the Broadband 8000 catchment area. The service will initially only be available to users within a 2km radius of 230 telephone exchanges, all located in major towns and cities.

To see if you are in one of the Broadband 8000 zones, and for further details, go to