Orange rebrand a declaration of quadruple play war

Europe's single players in jeopardy

Even though the Alice service travels over ADSL2+ DSLAMs which can offer a service up to 24 Mbps if the customer is close enough to the exchange, this type of service is far cheaper and means that nothing new has to be put into the access network to make IPTV possible.

Upgrading old DSLAMs to routed ISAMs, upgrading exchange backhaul and providing Quality of Service protocols is really the strategy for an incumbent that owns the network, and not so appealing for a newcomer that is trying to invade the network with its own services Telecom Italia has already done much the same in France with its AliceBox service, enjoying the strong unbundling legislation in France.

Here it launched a hybrid with 100 broadcast channels, and unlimited VoIP calls to France and Italy, with 6Mbps broadband.

We think this was based on Verimatrix DRM, Sagem set tops and Alcatel OMP similar to the set up in Germany. In France, Telecom Italia has just 380,000 broadband but hopes to treble this by the end of 2006.

Because Alice outside of Italy is simpler, it has managed to bring it to market suddenly, with little network upgrade effort and beat German incumbent Deutsche Telecom to the punch, will be offering it on the back of the Football World Cup.

HanseNet's Alice services uses the old Alcatel Open Media Platform middleware for IPTV, Alcatel access nodes, Harmonic encoders, Nagravision conditional access, ADB set tops running with the ANT Fresco browser and BitBand VoD servers and offers 100 DVB-T TV channels, plus VoD for $12.70 a month. So far HanseNet only has 660,000 broadband customers, but it is a base to build out from within Germany.

Meanwhile, it has taken the German incumbent even longer than either of these to ready itself for broadband based all out war in Europe. Funnily enough, like Wanadoo across Europe and the Alice service, Deutsche will also be offering hybrid local TV services off the back of broadband lines in parts of Europe.

DT was held up by all the financial hurdles it had when it decided to re-merge its T-Online subsidiary back into the group and this has taken the greater part of a year. It then only announced its German based IPTV service two months ago, a fully fledged Microsoft-Alcatel combination similar to the US AT&T service, and where both Swisscom and Telecom Italia are likely to be at some point in the future. This will launch in ten of the largest German cities, starting with Berlin, Hamburg, Cologne and Munich.

But its breakthrough came in France almost a year ago, when DT's first move was to partner with Microsoft and Lucent to add IPTV services to the Club Internet ISP operating in France. Club Internet claims to have 14m clients across Europe and was already offering consumer VoIP services and will now do so over ADSL2+ and VDSL technology.

Since then, DT has also announced that it will launch IPTV through T-Online Hungary, and also in Slovakia. Already T-Online has acquired the Spanish network operator Albura also known as Red Eléctrica Telecomunicationes, from the Spanish group Red Eléctrica de Espana in preparation for doing the same thing.

This gives T-Online access to a core infrastructure throughout Spain, where it has also promised to target VoIP, internet access and IPTV. T-Online there has around 7,500 km of fiber an unbundled loop network of 160 DSLAMs which it is in the process of growing to 400 by the end of this year.

If we add to this the Cisco European wide IPTV contract with DT, offering a European wide network, designed purely to offer hybrid DVB-T, digital terrestrial TV broadcasting plus VoD over IP services, all merged together in an IP set top from Cisco's Kiss, then we have the beginnings of a quadruple play Europe wide war.

And naturally, Deutsche can offer juicy quadruple play services by tying up with T-Online, while Telecom Italia Mobile can do the same with the Alice services.

But where does this leave the rest of Europe?

In the UK, British Telecom is widely thought to have nowhere to go. It is a wireline operator that has no mobile infrastructure of its own (it has mobile on a Vodafone MVNO), and is fighting shy of offering full IPTV, because of the strength of satellite TV supplier BSkyB and terrestrials Digital TV in the UK.

This means that when Orange attacks both wireline revenue by including mobile bundles, and offers a hybrid DVB-T/ VoD over IP strategy, it will be able to steal customers. Granted that neither Telecom Italia or DT has a footprint in UK broadband lines, but that can be easily acquired as there are around seven independent unbundler operations operating in the UK, the biggest of which, Easynet, has already been acquired by Sky, and the next being Bulldog, already acquired by Cable and Wireless, but thought to be up for sale again.




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