CEBIT - Telecom Italia signs up for Microsoft IPTV

Carrier joins North American service providers SBC and Verizaon as commercial customers of Microsoft IPTV.

Telecom Italia SpA is the latest carrier to sign up as a customer for Microsoft's IPTV program, a deal the Redmond, Wash., company plans to highlight at the Cebit conference in Hanover, Germany, this week.

Telecom Italia joins two North American carriers, SBC Communications and Verizon, as commercial customers for Microsoft's IPTV platform. Other carriers, such as BellSouth and Deutsche Telekom AG, are testing IPTV services using Microsoft's platform.

Microsoft's push into IPTV stumbled last year. In May, Swisscom delayed the rollout of its IPTV services using Microsoft software, citing technical difficulties and a lack of available set-top boxes. In June, Australian carrier Telstra, which had signed up for the IPTV early-adopter program, dropped out.

Things should pick up steam again in 2006 when some of the first commercial rollouts begin, Microsoft said.

As part of the deal, Telecom Italia will work with Microsoft to develop new services for both businesses and consumers, according to Telecom Italia.

For business customers, Telecom Italia will roll out audio- and video-conferencing applications and rich e-mail and collaboration services, such as the ability to edit documents in real time during business meetings, the carrier said. The services will be accessible through PCs or through mobile devices when users are traveling, according to Telecom Italia.

On the consumer side, Telecom Italia plans to develop entertainment services for both fixed and mobile terminals. Users will be able to access the services from PCs, cell phones and via IPTV set-top boxes. Those devices will also be able to connect remotely to share services, the company said.

Telecom Italia will also offer "instant channel-changing" with its IPTV service, allowing users to switch channels faster than they can with satellite TV, the carrier said. Users will also be able to watch 16 camera angles simultaneously on one TV screen for sporting events.

Telecom Italia has not announced when it will deploy services on Microsoft's IPTV platform, but the carrier already offers other IPTV services.

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