Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Europe becomes global test bed for IPTV

IPTV is getting a big push in Europe. Last week, several telcos announced major new initiatives into IPTV, making the area a global leader in deployment of the technology.

Deutsche Telekom, the “New York Times” reported, is spending 3 billion euros and has hooked up about four in 10 German households to broadband video services. Telecom Italia and Vodafone are also expanding, according to news from the Internationale Funkausstellung, the consumer electronics convention in Berlin.

In France, four phone companies — France Télécom, Free (a unit of Iliad), Neuf Cegetel and Alice (a unit of Telecom Italia) — and two resellers, Darty of France and Tele2 of Sweden, are operating IPTV services. A unit of Bouygues — Bouygues Telecom — is also planning an IPTV service.

In Britain, an IPTV service from the communications company BT Group — BT Vision — started last December.

European IPTV activity, the “Times” reported, is ahead of both the United States and Asia. However, the report said, although the technology is ready, it’s still not clear whether enough customers are ready to switch from more conventional pay-TV services.

Most of Europe’s triple-play systems, which also include phone and broadband Internet service, require customers to pay a monthly fee of 30 euros to 60 euros ($41 to $82) to receive digital video programs. Most telcos offer about 50 broadcast channels and about 60 premium channels with the service.

“IPTV’s decisive advantage is its ability to link programming with interactive services,” Timotheus Höttges, a Deutsche Telekom board member with responsibility for IPTV, told the “Times.”

“Europe is now the most aggressive market for IPTV,” Steve Rago, an analyst for iSuppli told the newspaper. Even countries like Lithuania and Slovakia are introducing IPTV.

About half of the current IPTV consumers in Western Europe are in France. iSuppli estimates that phone companies will spend $9 billion this year — $3 billion in Europe — building video-ready broadband networks. The phone companies, faced with dwindling voice traffic, are looking to IPTV to fill the gap.

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