UK cable operator ntl now reaches three million subscribers and has reported a significant increase in the uptake of its residential broadband service which now has over a million customers.

The telecommunications company ntl has set itself a target of winning four million subscribers by 2008, as it takes its overall customer total past three million for the first time.

Britain’s biggest cable company added 60,500 customers in the last quarter and aims to gain at least 50,000 per quarter until the four million target was achieved.

It should be noted that these numbers include subscribers to any of ntl’s services, including telephony, internet, digital and analogue television.

The company added 37,900 digital television subscribers in the last quarter, taking its digital television customer base to 1.4 million, representing 68% of its total 2 million television subscriptions. In total, the cable operator could currently reach over seven million homes with its digital services.

The half-year results for ntl were somewhat overshadowed by industry attention on BSkyB. Simon Duffy, ntl chief executive, said that the cable industry posed an increasing threat to satellite television operator. He observed that ntl was genuinely a triple-play company, with telephony now their biggest product and internet services their most rapidly growing area.

The company expects its digital television customer base to grow faster once the company signs a new deal to carry Sky’s premium sports and movie channels.

Duffy declined to comment on the prospects of a merger with Telewest, the industry’s number-two operator with just over a million television subscribers. Telewest recently completed its debt refinancing and, following ntl’s lead, listed its shares on Nasdaq.