Almost four million homes have connected to the Internet in the past year, the UK telecoms-industry regulator Oftel has revealed.

The quarterly Oftel survey, conducted in May, reveals that 10 million (40 per cent) UK homes now have an Net connection – a rise from six million in May 2000 and 8.5 million in February 2001.

Increasingly, UK homes are opting for unmetered Internet access solutions - 24 per cent of households now connect this way. Households are spending an average of 7.5 hours online, and 90 per cent of customers are satisfied with the service supplied by their ISPs.

Internet-enabled homes are also more likely to have a mobile phone and digital TV, Oftel reveals. The most popular ISP continues to be Freeserve, with 18 per cent of the market. with AOL second on 17 per cent share.

Digital TV projection Telewest has also released a report, called the Broadband Index, into Internet-access patterns in the UK. The company suggests that around 11 million people who are yet to get online expect to access the Internet through digital TV, with two in five people believing they will use digital TV rather than computers to browse online.

In another slice of UK Internet-industry news, NTL and Telewest announced plans to work together to accelerate the take-up of their always-on cable Internet services.

Between them, these companies already reach a potential nine million households; by the end of 2002 they expect to reach 11.6 million people.

Adam Singer, CEO of Telewest said: "This campaign is designed to bring the benefits of broadband Internet to life. This is a shot in the arm for Broadband Britain. It's great that the two of us are working together to promote digital cable."