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Orange and Tiscali turn up the heat on IPTV

17 апреля 2007
According to Dow Jones Newswires, Tiscali, which acquired TV and VoD provider Homechoice for around Ј50 million in August 2006, plans to extend it service beyond its existing London footprint to cover Newcastle, Birmingham and Edinburgh by the end of May and Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool by the end of June. Meanwhile, InformITV reports that Orange is planning to launch a broadband television service in the UK later this year. The hybrid service is expected to be based on a set-top box combining broadcast channels with broadband video on-demand programming. Customers are also expected be able to programme their personal video recorder from their mobile phone.

Comment: Typical. You wait ages for an IPTV service, and then a whole bunch of them come along at the same time.

In many Western European countries, telcos and ISPs have been offering pay-TV services over broadband networks for at least a year or two. Apart from a few in certain regions, consumers in the UK were not offered the same service until last December, when BT launched its Vision product. But although IPTV has been a long time coming, the UK market looks like it will get very competitive very quickly with other big ISPs bringing services to market close behind BT: Tiscali and Virgin Media (formerly NTL) have already announced their plans for the IPTV market, and now it looks like Orange will be joining the pack.

The reported Orange offering looks very similar to BT Vision in terms of content, functionality and hardware. However, Orange could be a particularly formidable competitor in the UK IPTV market. Its parent company France Telecom was one of the first telcos anywhere to offer its customers TV over broadband. France Telecom's 'Ma Ligne' TV service was launched in 2003-2004. Since then, France Telecom has learned a great deal from its experience about what works and what doesn't. As a result, Orange should be able to climb the learning curve faster than most other UK ISPs.

The UK has the third-largest population in Western Europe and it is one of the most mature and lucrative pay-TV markets. So why has IPTV taken so long to get going here? Partly, it's because although pay-TV is well established here, it is also dominated by a single player, Sky. Aspiring pay-TV competitors have needed to be sure that they can offer something that's either clearly better or clearly different from what Sky provides. But it's also partly because of the comparatively low bandwidth with which most UK broadband households are served. 1-2Mbit/s will just about support a standard-definition TV channel and simultaneous broadband Internet access, but it will fall over very quickly if asked to carry anything more sophisticated, such as multiple TV streams or high-definition TV. Yes, IPTV has finally arrived in the UK. However, if ISPs are serious about TV in the long term, it is essential that their strategies include ways to deliver much higher broadband access speeds - and ways of distributing that high-bandwidth content to multiple devices both inside and outside the home.

by John Delaney, Ovum


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