BT U.K. IPTV Service Employs Microsoft Platform

BT Group launched an IP TV service for customers of its broadband Internet access service on Monday, allowing them to view and record TV shows or order music videos, TV programs and movies on demand over their telephone line.

The service, BT Vision, delivers the TV programs to set-top boxes supplied by Koninklijke Philips Electronics, and uses Microsoft’s TV Internet Protocol Television Edition software. BT said Microsoft’s platform will eventually allow for the addition of voice, instant-messaging and presence capabilities.

To receive the IPTV service, customers must first subscribe to BT’s asymmetric DSL (ADSL) Internet access service, for a fee ranging from 18 pounds (US$36) to 27 pounds a month. Installation and connection charges are 90 pounds. BT then offers packages of TV channels, such as children’s shows or music videos, for 6 pounds per month. All viewers have access to a bundle of 40 digital terrestrial TV channels, called Freeview.

Microsoft has aggressively marketed its IPTV platform to carriers. A number have commercially deployed Microsoft’s IPTV services, including AT&T, Verizon Communications, Swisscom, Deutsche Telekom and Telecom Italia.

The IPTV market is forecast to grow, but faces tough competition from cable, satellite TV and free-to-air terrestrial TV operators. Market research firm Gartner predicts IPTV subscribers in Western Europe will number 3.3 million households this year, and increase to 16.7 million by 2010.

-Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service (London Bureau)

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