UK cable television operator Telewest is accelerating plans to upgrade its services to a single internet protocol network.

Telewest Broadband will converge its four existing networks for video, voice, data and business services onto a single platform using a Cisco Internet Protocol Next Generation Network system. The cable company will upgrade 14 regional head-ends and 64 hub sites to Gigabit Ethernet.

The solution is designed to provide substantial broadband capacity for the national rollout of television-on-demand services, with additional bandwidth to support the growth of broadband and business data services.

As well as rationalising the services onto one IP network, the switching infrastructure will be simplified, resulting in cost savings and easier upgrades, with greater flexibility to add new services in the future.

“The benefits of moving to an IP next-generation network are obvious, but there are also risks to consider,” explained Howard Watson, chief technology officer and managing director of networks, technology and information technology at Telewest. “Working with Cisco helps us to make a smooth and fast transition so that we can continue to make market-leading service innovations and fully exploit new opportunities in the broadband market.”

Cisco says that it has 10 million subscribers currently using video-on-demand and internet protocol television services on a daily basis delivered on Cisco networks.

“It was clear from the outset that Telewest’s vision for convergence focused on improving services to its customers, which meant an aggressive schedule for the rollout of TVOD services,” said Geraint Anderson of Cisco Systems.

While much of the focus on internet protocol television or IPTV has been on plans by telcos to offer video services, it is clear that cable companies are also considering the benefits of consolidating their networks on a single IP architecture.

Following an initial launch of a video-on-demand movie service, Telewest will roll out a television-on-demand service region by region.

“We truly believe TV-on-demand will transform the way consumers watch TV,” said Eric Tveter, president and chief operating officer at Telewest.

The company recently announced agreements with BBC Worldwide, Discovery and National Geographic to supply programming for the service. Agreements are already in place with the BBC, Flextech, Nickelodeon, FilmFlex and several adult channels.

Telewest is one of to main cable television operators in the UK, and a merger with NTL is widely expected.