Microsoft has turned to a Swiss telecommunication operator for the first commercial trial of its system that delivers television signals to consumers over a broadband telecommunications network.
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Beginning in September, Swisscom's Internet service provider (ISP) subsidiary Bluewin will deliver 25 TV channels to set top boxes in 600 homes.
During the four-month trial, testers will have access to five pay-TV channels and a video-on-demand service through the set top boxes, which also function as a digital video recorder with a live pause function, Microsoft said. Testers will have to pay for the service: €9.70 (£6.50) a month for 12 channels, or €15.50 for all 25, with pay-per-view films costing from €1.95 to €6.50 each.
Microsoft expects the trial to result in the launch of a Bluewin TV service over ADSL (Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line) in 2005, it said.
At the end of June, Bluewin had 390,000 ADSL customers, while parent Swisscom had a further 269,000 ADSL lines in operation used by customers of other ISPs, according to Swisscom figures.
Swisscom, the former state monopoly operator, has 3.1 million telephone lines in operation for a population of around 7.3 million, according to the 2000 government census.
Microsoft and Swisscom are trailing the pack in the race to sign up customers to digital TV over ADSL.
In France, several of the major ISPs already offer television programming over ADSL, notably Free SAS which offers ADSL service at up to 6mps with free telephone calls and 100 TV channels for €29.99 a month to 355,000 of its 768,000 ADSL customers.
Some 4.5 million of France's 11 million internet connections are via ADSL, according to ART, the French telecommunications regulatory authority. The country has a population of 60 million.
Peter Sayer writes for IDG News Service