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Orange UK Once Again Revives Plans for a Broadband TV Service

Posted: 10th May, 2010 By: MarkJ
orange logoReports claim that Orange UK, which is currently in the process of merging with former rival T-Mobile UK, has once again decided to revive its long-held ambitions to launch a broadband ISP based TV ( IPTV ) product in Britain. Such a move would mark the operators third attempt at an internet base television service, having previously shelved the last batch of plans in 2008 due to the difficult economic climate and market competition (here).

Back in 2008 Orange conceded that the UK market simply wasn't ready for such a product. Sky and Virgin Media both combined to hold a tight grip over commercial TV while Orange's closest rivals in the IPTV field, BT Vision and Tiscali TV, were struggling for customers. On top of all this the operators own broadband network continued to underperform.

Then last month an unexpected thing happened. Orange effectively threw in the towel on its own unbundled ( LLU ) broadband platform by handing control of their fixed line ISP network to BT . It's perhaps ironic that part of the reason they gave for shelving plans in 2008 was to put greater emphasis on migrating existing customers away from BT and on to their own unbundled (LLU) service.

Orange’s VP of Strategy, Bruno Duarte, said in April 2010 (here):

"We are not satisfied with where we stand with broadband, as our customer base is declining and our performance is poor. But we need to remain in fixed-line broadband so decided to fundamentally change what we are doing."

A lot has happened since 2008. We have seen growing moves towards a standardised broadband TV platform in Project Canvas, BT recently began rolling out their next generation broadband network and Ofcom has finally taken on Sky's dominance of the UK pay TV market; though a positive outcome to that is by no means certain.

A report in The Times this morning states that Orange will make use of BT's "more advanced" network to launch its TV product, though any launch date is still believed to be some way off. But despite the market becoming more positive, we still fear that the UK is not quite ready for IPTV.. at least not from Orange.

Next generation broadband networks that are ideal for IPTV services will be in their infancy until at least 2012 (excluding Virgin Media UK). Gaining access to premium TV content remains costly and Orange will also have a mountain to climb in convincing people to join its somewhat tarnished image.
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