German IPTV will launch without interactive features

Deutsche Telekom, Europe's largest telecom company, plans to launch its Internet-based television service next month but without any of the technology's key interactive services.

"We're going to start by offering soccer and some other television programs and add interactive services later this year, such as video on demand, electronic program guides and on-demand TV archives," said Martin Frommhold, a spokesman at the T-Online division of Deutsche Telekom. "Some say we're delaying interactive TV services but we never really said when we plan to offer them."

The carrier's IPTV service is part of a triple-play offering, which includes telephony and high-speed Internet access, to be delivered over a newly built very-high bit rate Digital Subscriber Line (VDSL) network.

The VDSL network, being rolled out initially in 10 cities, offers speeds up to 50Mbps -- fast enough to support HDTV and 3D TV.

In March, Deutsche Telekom agreed to agreed to deploy Microsoft's IPTV software platform and make it a core component of the German carrier's comprehensive, VDSL-based T-Home service offering.

Several European telcos, including BT Group PLC and Telecom Italia SpA, are currently testing IPTV software technology developed by Microsoft. However, some of these service providers, including Swisscom, have encountered unspecified technical problems and been forced to delay the rollout of commercial service.

Frommhold declined to comment on whether Deutsche Telekom has experienced any difficulty with Microsoft IPTV software platform.

"This is a very challenging project," he said. "Numerous services must be combined and offered on a single platform. It makes no sense to launch a new service if we can't guarantee a high level of quality."

Deutsche Telekom expects to be able to offer VDSL-based triple play services, including IPTV, to 3.1 million households in August and as many as 6 million by the first quarter of 2007, according to Frommhold.

Gartner estimates that the number of German households subscribing to IPTV, however, will reach 47,000 this year and grow to 2.8 million by 2010.

In Western Europe, the market research and consulting group projects that the number of households subscribing to new IPTV services will grow from 3.3 million at the end of 2006 to 16.7 million by 2010.

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