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BT to launch IPTV next week

BT has confirmed it is to launch its long-awaited internet television service next Monday. The BT Vision service will pump television over broadband into people’s homes for the first time in the British incumbent’s history.

A spokesman told Telecoms.com that the service will “only be available to BT broadband customers initially”, he would not be drawn on how soon that could change.

Unlike other film clubs in the UK, BT confirmed there will be no mandatory monthly subscription to Vision. Films are delivered via broadband are on a strict ‘pay as you go’ basis.

Vision will not interfere with the UK’s Freeview (digital terrestrial) service.

The software behind Vision is from Microsoft and the set top box which the ISP said will cost around £100, is made by Philips. This has a personal video recorder (PVR) with a 160GB capacity according to BT.

BT Vision will be enabled by the BT Hub, the device which is at the heart of BT’s strategy for the converged home. The hub will also allow wireless networking for the family’s PCs and laptops and up to five different calls to be made at the same time using voice over internet technology.

The service will include on-demand content from BBC Worldwide, Paramount, Warner Music Group, National Geographic Channel, Cartoon Network and independent producers HIT Entertainment, Nelvana and Endemol. BT will deploy hybrid set-tops supplied by Philips, using Microsoft’s IPTV platform.

BT’s entry into the TV delivery business will be low-key to begin with in terms of channels but, says the telecoms giant, things will start “gathering momentum” in the spring of 2007.

News of Vision’s arrival comes a week after a dramatic move by Sky to block NTL’s ambitions in the TV delivery/content arena. After Sky chief James Murdoch bought up a stake in ITV, NTL’s largest investor, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin, accused Murdoch of foul play.

As content delivery moves towards a converged digital pipe, content and media players as well as carriers are increasingly becomming embroiled in often bitter rows over ownership and shares of profits.

But Chris Barraclough, director of STL the consultancy that set up Telco 2.0 and specialises in consulting on new revenue streams, reckons SKY et al, have little to fear, at least in the short term. “This is all learning for BT,” says Barraclough. “But what it is doing well is offering new services and a new wave of revenues… Fusion and several other [projects] are really at the very early stages of delivering this converged world.”

Barraclough adds: “What’s different about this is that it’s not a subscription service which is very unusual for a major telco. My view is this will build up in stages. At momemt there is a small protfiolio of channels and it will also be interesting to see how they develop user generated content. Google believes it can monetize YouTube, it will be interesting to see what BT does with it.”

Asked if NTL and Sky should be worried about BT’s enormous reach Barraclough said ownership of the network “is much less important these days than in the past… it’s very early to say BT are goiung to wipe the board and it will be interesting to see whether they can execute. But no, it’s certainly not game over yet.”

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