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Euro consumers don't trust IP for TV

Scepticism is closing the window of opportunity

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Public scepticism over the reliability of broadband and the internet could sink IPTV - unless European service providers can develop hybrid or blended services that deliver more than "just TV", and unless they wean themselves off competing solely on price and speed.

That's according to a survey of European consumer attitudes commissioned by Juniper Networks. The company, which supplies core networking and IPTV equipment, said the survey shows that IPTV on its own has little future - or at least little to commend it.

The IT industry has fixated on IPTV as a hot new technology for triple-play networks, without thinking properly about what it delivers to the end user, Juniper added.

"TV on its own is not compelling," said Paul Gainham, Juniper's service provider marketing director for Europe. "What providers need to get to is not triple-play, not quad-play, it's more than that - we call it multi-play. Ordinary people don't care that it's IP, they care if the service provider can deliver different, unique services."

That could include personalised channels, a wider range of content, interactivity, and access from multiple devices and locations, he suggested.

Juniper's latest survey covered Italy, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia - it had already studied France, Germany, and the UK. It questioned 1,000 people in each of the six regions, all of whom used both the internet and TV, and the results look iffy for would-be IPTV suppliers.

The window of opportunity for IPTV is supposed to be the impending shut-down of analogue TV transmissions. However, while analogue still dominates in France and Italy, the survey says most users in the other regions have already shifted to digital terrestrial, satellite, or cable TV. Attacking incumbents is always a hard task.

The results also show that while many people already watch video over the web, with the Italians and French being especially enthusiastic consumers, most of it is news and user-generated content.

"That's not the most demanding, in quality terms," Gainham said, adding that sports was the least popular for web viewing, presumably because it requires higher quality and is real-time.

The survey revealed that consumer scepticism over the security and reliability of broadband is a big problem for would-be IPTV suppliers, as are fears over the cost and complexity of the extra equipment needed to receive IPTV.

It also shows that the service providers have shot themselves in the foot by creating a market where the main consumer choice factors are simply bandwidth and cost, not quality or video content.

"The telecoms suppliers have done a brilliant job of commoditising their own infrastructures," said Gainham. "The telecoms guys need to learn - and quickly - to be more compelling to the user. So far it's been outsiders who have innovated, and the telecoms carriers have just responded and carried the services."

The outsider threat to IPTV comes from the content providers - outfits such as Google, MSN and Yahoo!, but Gainham said the telcos still have a chance because the survey shows they are the most trusted brands, though only just.

He added: "People say content is king. I don't disagree, but it's broader than that - you have to get the connectivity and the point of consumption right. No one has all three though, so they will all need to partner in one way or another." ®

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