Lattelekom will start offering 11 channels (five local, five foreign/satellite) of IP TV by end-September or early October, Girts Kirsteins, a Lattelekom executive, confirmed to this blogger (well, to my day job newspaper, to be exact). The test will be free until the end of the year, at least, and will be available to around 95 % of the country's HomeDSL service users without an increase in connection speed.
The IPTV service, initially available only as video to PC monitors (unless one rigs a link to a TV set onesself), will run on a Microsoft platform and use a very high compression ratio so that TV broadcasts can fit into the 2Mbps speed available to all DSL users on the "open garden" Lattelekom network of selected sites.
One of the interactive features of the service will be the ability to record shows on Lattelekom's servers for replay on demand. This will be a faster service than the hours or day-later archiving of Latvian news programs on some other websites, such as www.tvnet.lv.
Lattelekom is still working on a business model for the eventual commercial launch of IP TV, but it looks like one alternative will be a triple-play package, offering an IPTV package at low or no cost to subscribers who subcribe (probably with some minimal binding time) to Lattelekom's voice and broadband services. Lattelekom also cut the price of its HomeDSL from around LVL 15 to LVL 9.99 per month if a subscription is signed for 18 months (existing ones can be renegotiated). That puts it in the running against some other triple-play offers, noteably Baltkom TV. Baltkom, however, is about to launch 100 channels of digital cable (up from 24) for LVL 12.90 a month.
Lattelekom, to be sure, is not the first IP TV provider -- the novelty service (and fairly costly, at LVL 0.05 per minute) was launched for mobile phones by Latvian Mobile Telephone earlier this summer.