UK fixed line incumbent BT Group will launch its long-awaited IPTV service next week, a spokesman told local news. BT Vision will broadcast via broadband to users’ televisions via a combined set-top box and wireless router, offering an array of free-to-air channels and video-on-demand (VoD) services with no monthly subscription. The set-top box, made by Philips, will connect to an existing terrestrial TV aerial to receive up to 30 Freeview broadcast channels, and to a BT DSL connection for additional content. It will also be capable of recording up to 80 hours of content. Users will pay for the set-top box up front and then be charged only for paid-for content. It has secured content deals with numerous companies including UK broadcaster Channel 4 and Disney, and is expected to unveil further details, including service pricing, over the coming week. BT says that ‘tens of thousands’ of people have registered an interest in the service. It is planning a soft launch of Vision initially before promoting the service heavily from spring onwards.
The announcement comes as BT this week transferred the first customers to its next-generation IP-based network. The first users of the USD10 billion 21st Century Network have been migrated in the village of Wick, near Cardiff, and will be followed by the rest of south Wales in the coming months, ahead of a mass transfer of customer lines in every region of the UK from January 2008. The first areas to be migrated after Cardiff include Belfast, Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Canterbury, Darlington, Edinburgh, Glasgow, London, Manchester and Nottingham. Rollout of ADSL2+ technology will commence in the second half of 2007, allowing up to 24Mbps broadband access to 50% of the UK from early 2008. BT says work should be substantially complete by the end of the decade.