IZZI, the Latvian cable television, internet and voice services provider, will be able to offer 100 Mbps internet speeds to its cable customers during 2009, according to Helmut Kohl, a representative of Contaq Latvian Cable, the company's new owner (a consortium of four investment funds).
Kohl said the planned upgrade of IZZI's cable network means it will decisively beat Lattelecom's DSL offering, which presently tops at 10 Mbps. Short of a major and expensive replacement of the entire copper-based infrastructure, coaxial cable linked to IZZI's fiber optic network in certain urban areas will be the fastest internet service in Latvia, he said. Such speeds can only be exceeded by upgrading to fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), which is being implemented on a very small scale in Latvia by Latvenergo and Lattelecom.
Kohl also said that IZZI was planning to participate in a forthcoming tender to provide digital terrestrial TV broadcast services to reach some 400 000 viewers in areas outside Latvia's larger cities where broadcast TV is the only service presently available.
Kohl said that if IZZI were awarded the deal, it had the money, know-how and other resources to start digital broadcasting within one year of the award. The digital TV tender is expected in November. The Contaq executive said that around 80 % of the necessary hardware and software resources needed for digital terrestrial broadcasting already existed to serve IZZI's digital cable TV network.
Kohl also said that IZZI hoped to expand its high-definition offerings on digital cable (currently limited to VOOM, an English language HD channel and an HD channel in Russian) next year and offer HD terrestrial broadcasts if given the chance. He cautioned, however, that there were no local HD offerings and those available in Europe in major languages were in English or German.
Commenting on possible competition between cable and IPTV, Kohl noted that some of the investors in the consortium behind the recent buy-out of IZZI (from Latvian stakeholders) were invested in IPTV.
Kohl sees IPTV as an outlet for specialized content and narrow audiences, citing a golf channel as an example, while more mainstream programming would be supplied on cable. The Contaq spokesman said he was not concerned that Lattelecom was offering timeshifted programming, since this was mainly locally produced, whereas timeshifting content such as feature films using the operator's platform was "a gray legal area" that could not be compared to recording shows on hard disk or tape while absent from home.