Microsoft may delay SBC’s IPTV launch

SBC Communications, after promising to launch its IPTV service later this year, will have to delay a commercial rollout until at least 2006, USA TODAY reported.

The potential trouble spot is Microsoft’s IPTV software platform, which the newspaper said is still in development. That software will form the heart of the operating system for SBC’s entire video network, making it critical to the project.

The newspaper quoted analysts saying there’s a good chance Microsoft won’t be able to deliver on the aggressive timetables set by SBC. One other carrier, Swisscom of Switzerland, recently announced delays of its IPTV project because of technology problems. Swisscom and SBC are using the same vendors, Microsoft and Alcatel, noted Analyst John Hodulik of UBS Investment Research.

Any delay would be a major setback for SBC, which is pouring billions into its IPTV efforts. It comes as the company is preparing to acquire AT&T. With revenue from local and long-distance services falling, SBC is rushing into the TV business as a way to offset those declines.

SBC insisted that the project is on track. Moshe Lichtman, who is heading Microsoft’s IPTV effort, acknowledged that things aren’t coming together as fast as the company expected.

SBC last year selected Microsoft as its sole vendor for supplying it with IPTV software. At the time, SBC said it planned to begin field trials in mid-2005 and deploy commercial services in late 2005.

In March, SBC changed the schedule. It now plans to begin field trials in the third quarter and do a limited commercial launch later this year, ramping up in 2006. It is still planning to make its IPTV service available to 18 million homes by mid-2008.

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