Deutsche Telekom to begin IPTV test in May

Deutsche Telekom AG will begin testing an IPTV service over its new high-speed network next month, kicking off what could eventually be one of the world's largest rollouts of the technology, the company said on Thursday.

Europe's largest telecommunications service provider is stringing fiber optic cable to the curb of homes in 10 German cities in the first phase of a €3 billion (US$3.7 billion) high-speed network project, which will eventually connect 50 cities. To bridge the remaining distance to homes, the company is installing VDSL links, offering speeds up to 50Mbps.

With the new infrastructure, Deutsche Telekom aims to offer customers a range of Internet-based television services, such as IPTV, HDTV and 3-D. Like some other telcos in Europe and the United States, Deutsche Telekom has agreed to deploy Microsoft's IPTV software platform.

Television, like music and phone calls, is entering the age of the digital packet, to be broken up into bits, thrust through networks and reassembled at the other end.

For the Deutsche Telekom test, several hundred customers will be able to view around 100 channels, including existing satellite and cable feeds as well as video-on-demand movies. The IPTV platform will also provide Web surfing, VoIP and other interactive entertainment services.

To connect to the service, users will receive a media receiver, manufactured by Linksys, a division of Cisco. The HDTV-enabled receiver has an 80GB hard drive, for recording up to 70 hours of video.

Among the technical features to be tested are time-delay TV, also known as "time shift," and a personal video recorder, which enables flagged programs to be recorded and current programs to be interrupted until viewer chooses to continue. The test will also check the integration of individual components and determine customer acceptance levels.

The German operator plans to launch commercial service in the second half of next year. Pricing has not yet been released.

Since announcing its VDSL plans last year, Deutsche Telekom has been under pressure by the European Commission to open the high-speed network to rival operators. To safeguard its planned investment, however, the German incumbent is demanding that if it must share the new network with rivals, it should be allowed to set the conditions. This position differs from current rules under which the national regulator sets the prices for rivals to use the former monopolist's copper-based local loop infrastructure.

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