Bell Canada has postponed a widespread commercial launch of IPTV services over its ADSL network, which had been expected this quarter, according to reports in the Canadian media. Bell’s apparent decision to put ADSL TV on hold was known among key players in the industry, an unnamed source was quoted as saying. A spokesman for Microsoft, which has been chosen by Bell to supply software for IPTV services, confirmed Bell is still a trial, rather than a commercial, customer. Bell spokesman Mark Langton was quoted as saying that he does not comment on product rollouts, but insisted the company remains committed to IPTV. Canadian telcos have around 200,000 DSL-based TV subscribers, according to estimates from Toronto-based Convergence Consulting, with the majority belonging to regional operators SaskTel and MTS. Bell, the largest PSTN operator in the country, and its closest rival Telus, have been slower to enter the IPTV market. Bell originally announced that it would introduce commercial IPTV across its broadband network in 2006, but in the fourth quarter of that year it said it would wait until Microsoft released a more advanced version of its IPTV software ‘within six to twelve months’. Bell already has around 1.8 million TV subscribers, mostly via its satellite division, with a landline TV service based on fibre-optic/VDSL technology available to selected apartment blocks in Montreal and Toronto. The development of IPTV is proving costly because of the necessary extension of Bell’s fibre infrastructure to reduce the distance from customers’ homes, and also introduces the problem of competing with its own satellite service. Additionally, observers say Bell may want to wait for completion of a buyout deal, which will take its parent group BCE private next year, before committing to any new major investments.
Meanwhile, BCE group member Bell Aliant, the incumbent telco in Atlantic Canada, is pressing ahead with its own regional IPTV rollout. It has announced that it is investing around USD12.5 million in Greater Moncton to enhance the capacity of its existing broadband network in order to offer customers more service options including ADSL TV. ‘This CAD12 million injection brings Aliant’s total investment in broadband in New Brunswick to CAD164 million since 2000,’ said Claudine Langan, Aliant’s Director of Consumer Marketing, adding that the investment ‘will also help accelerate the development and deployment of more leading-edge IP applications such as video-on-demand.’