UK telecoms titan BT is pressing ahead with faster broadband internet access. It will begin extended trials of its Max service next month with a national rollout expected in the spring.

The service offers speeds of up to 8Mbps (megabits per second), four times as fast as BT's current best of 2Mbps - but still well behind the 24Mbps offered by some of its rivals.

BT has already piloted the service in London and Scotland. The wider market trial will include an initial 25 local exchanges, rising to 53 as the trial progresses.

Initially 50,000 customers will take part and, "depending on the successful progress of the trial", the company aims to sign up 150,000 end users.

Says BT Wholesale's Cameron Rejali: "BT is committed to ensuring that everyone benefits from the broadband revolution whether they live in valleys, villages or city centres."

The increased speed not only allows users to browse and send emails faster but, more significantly, enables them to watch video, listen to audio and play games at the same time.

Latest figures show more people in the UK now access the internet via broadband than by dial-up. Jupiter Research predicts that within five years, 80% of online households in Europe will have a broadband connection, with an even higher percentage in the UK.

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff