Monday, September 20, 2004

Lattelekom at Heathrow and TV in 2005

Lattelekom will soon offer WiFi roaming at Heathrow Airport (that's London for some who may not know) and will move into cable TV in 2005. That was the main news in Lattelekom managing director Nils Melngailis presentation at the Baltic Sea Region Communication Forum. This may come as part of a "triple play" offer which combines fast internet, cable TV and voice (although that voice may be a feature of the broadband link). The only operator offering triple play to some of its customers at present is Baltcom. TeliaMulticom (more about them later) – no longer owned by TeliaSonera but keeping the name while it thinks of a new one– is still waiting for the third shoe to drop– they offer cable TV and internet. People who put Skype or something like that on their Multicom internet connection are adding their own "third play".
Some remarks: Lattelekom has the fast fiber optic network in Riga necessary for triple play, including digital cable TV, but one wonders why they weren't given a chance to buy TeliaMulticom and its ready-made customer base. Instead, the company was bought by its own attorney. Lattelekom was very interested in this, but TeliaSonera apparently made the choice of who to sell to. In Sweden, the EU authorities ordered the newly-formed TeliaSonera to divest Telia's cable TV operator Com.hem. Maybe T-S was afraid of getting entangled with cable TV in Latvia. I haven't heard that the EU authorities are against triple-play per se. In fact, the day will come when every fast connection will be triple play in fact. In Sweden, there are broadband offerings at 26 Mbps to the households. That leaves plenty of room for hi-res internet TV, voice ("hogging" 64 kbps for a chat with Singapore for free) and downloading the warez version of everything Microsoft ever made in about two hours (maybe less).
It looks like Lattelekom will be starting cable TV from scratch or cutting some unlikely deal, like feeding Baltcom's programs to areas where they don't have optical fiber and the necessary infrastructure for interactivity.
The other presentations in the early afternoon were, alas, people reading their Powerpoint slides, which brings us to the language issue, namely, that even people whose companies make money that can be moved by bulldozers (LMT) don't feel confident when not speaking their native language. Sorry, Juris Binde. The same is true for Mihail Zotov, although I must congratulate him for a good effort. This was the first time he spoke in public in his rather good and careful English. He usually speaks to Latvian audiences in Russian, leaving me wondering or whispering to the journalist next to me. Everyone has their faults :).
Tommorrow, the session on digital TV – a disaster in Latvia as far as the broadcast part goes – will probably be held in Latvian. That should get the interpreters earning their keep -- today (Sept 20) there were around three people with earphones, although it was entirely in English. Actually, a sign of progress, to my mind.

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