Microsoft Corp. 's highly anticipated, broadband-only Xbox Live service went live today in the U.S. and Canada.

More than 10,000 retailers began selling the Xbox Live Starter Kit today. The kit, priced at $49.99, includes a communications headset that allows Xbox gaming console owners to talk with competitors over high-speed lines. The kit also comes with a one-year subscription to the Xbox Live service.

A spate of Xbox sports and action titles support the new multiplayer service, including "MechAssault," "NFL Fever 2003," "Unreal Championship," "Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon" and "SEGA Sports NHL2K3."

More than a dozen broadband service providers have joined the "Xbox Compatible" program, an initiative designed to help gamers get the best experience out of Xbox Live. Among North American MSOs, Charter Communications Inc., Comcast Corp., Cox Communications, Rogers Cable Inc. and Time Warner Cable are all Xbox Compatible card-carrying members.

Still, services such as Xbox Live could present quite a bandwidth management challenge to cable operators. In addition to provisioning consoles on their respective networks, operators must also be wary of how much bandwidth the console is eating up and how much of an impact it is having on network costs.