The set-top box for the Sky high-definition satellite television service launching in the UK next year is likely to have a network port to allow it to be linked to broadband connection.

Current Sky set-top boxes have an analogue modem that is connected to a telephone line to provide the return path for interactive services.

There has long been speculation that with the growth of broadband services, set-top boxes should be able to take advantage of a high-speed, always-on network connection. It is understood by informitv that this will become a feature of new high-end set-top boxes.

Potentially, this would allow much more responsive interactive television services, particularly for transactional applications.

Sky recently revealed plans to enable a new range of web service based interactive applications that would potentially allow anyone to have a low-cost presence on interactive television. While these would require a dial-up call with an analogue modem, they would be immediately available over a broadband connection.

Separately, Sky is planning a broadband television service that will allow subscribers to download a selection of movie and sports material over the internet. This service will initially be targeted at personal computers, but it indicates the potential to supplement subscription services delivered by satellite with on-demand services over broadband.

The forthcoming high-definition service is likely to initially attract the early adopter market, with many potential customers having broadband connections.

There is also the possibility of providing network connectivity in future versions of the Sky+ personal video recorder, effectively segmenting the market into a number of price points.

With operators such as BT planning to launch hybrid services that combine broadband video-on-demand with broadcast television, Sky clearly needs to tap into the broadband market. The combination of premium high-definition programming and broadband connected interactive services could be a compelling consumer proposition that telcos may find hard to match.