Lattelekom looks ready to launch IP TV services - at least experimentally- sometime later this spring. This blogger's sources say the company is shopping for, or perhaps has already bought some Ethernet DSL equipment needed to provide the kind of high-bandwidth connections that TV over IP, fast internet and voice over IP combinations services required.
"Look for an announcement after Easter (which falls at the end of March)" said one highly-placed informant.
By offering TV over DSL, Lattelekom would be fulfilling predictions made by its managing director Nils Melngailis and following in the footsteps of "half-mother" :) TeliaSonera which just announced IP TV services in Sweden. Lattelekom has already had one experimental videocast – a concert by Latvian popgroup Brainstorm late last year.
With Baltkom TV, Latvia's largest cable TV company pushing triple-play internet, voice and digital cable and hinting that video on demand may be one of its first interactive premium services, Lattelekom has to move into the game quickly. Certainly, the telecoms incumbent has a customer base of some 630 000, but at best it can hope to get a portion of its 40 000 broadband customers to upgrade to TV/video services.
Both companies will benefit from the fact that digital terrestrial TV is practically dead in the water here with no resolution in sight (the existing project was denounced as a fraud by the earlier government of Einars Repse and will be dragged through various courts for years, scaring off other potential partners). If we simply look at digital moving images (the old concepts TV, video, etc. are actually falling apart) as a product for the middle class with disposable income (and forget, for better or worse, the public service aspects of TV), then we can see the seeds of some business models for the telecoms sector.
Instead of broadcast programming (except for breaking news), the tendency will be toward self-programmed entertainment and information, anytime, anyplace, any platform. So there are synergies in having digital content that can be fed to PCs or ordinary TVs (though a wireless LAN adapter, even Bluetooth), played (and eventually recorded) to 3G phones, stored on Video iPod-type devices and the like.
Aside from making the technology work, a problem facing both Lattelekom and Baltkom will be making money from an initially small customer-base with high-cost quality content Baltkom's selection of old Russian movie channels, Ukrainian MTV or whatever, Russian dubbed Discovery Channels can go only so far as the audience becomes more sophisticated and wants to see better quality content in a variety of languages (digital already makes this possible). With Baltkom hinting it will offer video on demand in the second half of 2005, Lattelekom has to get a jump on what in this market sector is it's major competitor.