IPTV morphs into OTT in Russia

Rostelecom, part of Russia's long-distance telephone carrier Svyazinvest, has relaunched and rebranded its IPTV service as “Interaktivnoe TV” (Interactive TV) with support for multiple screens and extra channels totaling 200 now — 17 in HD.

Other improvements include the ability to record up to three channels at once, time-shift live TV, a new VOD library, and catch-up going back three days for all channels. This makes it a grownup IPTV service morphing into OTT with a clear strategy to reach the whole country, except much of Siberia, which is a huge area but very sparsely populated.

Rostelecom is the largest telecoms operator in Russia, following the merger in April 2011 of inter-regional communications companies CenterTelecom, North-West Telecom, South Telecom Company, Volga Telecom, Ural Telecom, Siberia Telecom, Far East Telecom and Dagsvyazinform with the Rostelecom national long-distance communications company.

The new service is initially replacing Rostelecom’s existing IPTV offering in all regions except Moscow, where it offers internet and TV services under a separate brand.

The TV service will also include integration with social networks and “companion screen” interaction, enabling users to share views on what they are watching with friends. Subscribers will also be given up to 7GB of storage in the cloud to back-up their own content, with the possibility of upgrading further.

Set-tops for the new service are being supplied by Motorola Mobility, whose VIP1003 and VIP1963 IPTV set-tops Rostelecom is deploying. The VIP1003 is a compact, high-definition IP set-top, suited for single set-top deployments, while the VIP1963 is a high-definition IP DVR media center.

Even before the relaunch, Rostelecom has been gaining IPTV subscribers rapidly, almost doubling from 500,000 in September 2011 to 900,000 now. The operator is predicting further rapid gains to reach 1.4 million by the end of 2012.