Swisscom was one of the first European operators to announce its intention to deliver TV and video services over its copper access network, but, along with its main IPTV vendor partner, Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), it has had a rocky ride.
Two of the main problems Swisscom encountered were bandwidth requirements and the lack of suitable set-top boxes. During the past 18 months set-top box vendors have been unveiling new products that support Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)'s IPTV Edition technology, while Swisscom has been deploying Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA)'s ISAM multiservice access product with VDSL2 capabilities. (See Set-Top Boxers Support MSFT, STB Makers Support MSFT, and Swisscom Picks Alcatel for IPTV.)
During 2006, Swisscom has been saying it would "launch IPTV before the end of year," a deadline it has now managed, but not without difficulties. Some industry executives, who requested anonymity, say the carrier undertook a major IPTV service trial involving tens of thousands of its broadband customers that went badly wrong, leading to significant levels of customer churn.
A spokesman for the operator tells Light Reading that Swisscom encountered "a number of different problems. We had problems with a set-top box that we developed with Microsoft, and on the network side, you need enough bandwidth to get two channels to the customer -- there, we learned a lot.
"We have had different trials with high numbers of people. Trials exist so you can find out what the problems are early. I can't confirm any numbers, but I can say we didn't stop any trials. None of these problems were bad enough that people couldn't get any service."
The official launch brings to an end a tumultuous three years that has been watched very closely by other IPTV hopefuls and Microsoft's rivals:
- Swisscom fixed-line subsidiary Bluewin first announced its intention to launch IPTV services and provide a triple-play challenge to its main rival, cable operator UPC Cablecom , in November 2003 when it revealed its intention to use Microsoft's IPTV technology. It later named Tandberg Television as another supplier. (See Swisscom Picks Microsoft IPTV and Swisscom Deploys Tandberg.)
- In September 2005, Swisscom announced a 600-home trial to evaluate a variety of services. "The tests will last for around four months, after which work will begin on the market launch of Bluewin TV in 2005," the carrier announced. (See Swisscom to Trial IP TV Service.)
- But that test started badly when "glitches" restricted the trial to a small number of homes. (See Swiss IPTV Trial Hits 'Glitches'.)
- Those early problems led to Alcatel's involvement in the Bluewin TV project as a troubleshooter and integrator. The French vendor was subsequently awarded a broadband access infrastructure contract by Swisscom in April 2005, with a view to launching a commercial IPTV service by the end of 2005. (See Swisscom Picks Alcatel for IPTV.)
Alcatel's involvement also paved the way for its unexpected IPTV partnership with Microsoft. (See Alcatel, Microsoft Tuning IPTV Deal and Alcatel, Microsoft Confirm IPTV Deal.)
- But even with Alcatel's help, the project proved too problematic, and in May 2005 Swisscom abandoned plans to launch its IPTV service that year. (See Swisscom IPTV Stall Sends Shivers.)