Ailing UK cable operator NTL is mulling a plan to rent out its network to rivals.

The company, struggling under a debt burden of $17 billion, is said to have talked to internet service providers Freeserve and AOL UK about the idea.

Should the plan go ahead, ISPs could be hiring portions of NTL's network to provide broadband internet access by the end of the year.

NTL will unveil a new business plan later this month. It is making 4,000 redundancies this year, and is expected to cut marketing spend significantly as investment dries up. The group's New York-listed shares plunged to an all-time low of 55 cents on Monday, reflecting growing anxiety among investors about its long-term financial position.

News sources: Financial Times; BrandRepublic (UK)