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O2 to join IPTV fray next year

'I want a piece of that non-action!'

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O2 says its IPTV efforts have been such a roaring success in the Czech Republic that it'll roll out a similar offering in the UK 2008.

The bubbly comms outfit, which has entered the UK broadband market this year, has attracted 70,000 Czech telly subscribers since September 2006, which isn't bad considering a population of just 10 million and broadband penetration of about 12 per cent. In the UK it's more like 24 per cent.

A large part of the Czech success may have be that O2 holds the rights to broadcast ice hockey games.

In the UK O2 provides broadband over the Be ADSL2+ network. The firm says it'll start trials of a similar TV service here next year, despite indications that IPTV is struggling. Tiscali's service has lost subscribers and BT Vision has failed to meet its customer targets. Both are convinced it'll all be fine though.

Many analysts remain assured that IPTV is a requirement for broadband providers to retain customers and avoid commoditisation. Here's what Ovum's John Deleaney had to say today: "In the medium/long term, all broadband access providers need plans to stave off commoditisation, and TV has an important role to play in those plans."

The thing is, once they've all got similar services, all offering similar content, (same PVR, same Setanta football, same HBO series, same after-Sky movies) we'll be back where we started - giant companies competing fiercely for the same small pool of switchers, each squeezing their customer service budget for existing customers. And a creaky old infrastructure that's asked to deliver ever-more data without significant upgrades in the last mile. Plus ça change.

In other IPTV damp squibbery, the reporting SWAT team at the Telegraph multimedia hub has deigned to notice that Orange won't be launching its IPTV service anytime soon. But you've known that for weeks. ®

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