Deutsche Telekom tunes in to Microsoft TV

Microsoft Corp. won its largest IPTV deal in Europe, announcing Tuesday that Deutsche Telekom AG will use its software to provide interactive television services for customers in Germany.

The service will be offered to customers who have access to Deutsche Telecom's broadband VDSL (Very-high-bit-rate Digital Subscriber Line) network, which is due to be rolled out midyear in 10 cities including Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Cologne, the companies said.

How much more widely the service will be available is unclear, however. Deutsche Telekom had planned to offer VDSL in an additional 40 cities by 2007, but that build-out is threatened by a new Telecommunications Act in Germany. The German carrier has said it won't extend the network if the government doesn't clarify new network sharing requirements in a way Deutsche Telekom approves of.

Customers with access to the service will be able to receive regular television programs over the VDSL lines, which deliver up to 50M bps of data throughput. They'll also be able to view high-definition TV and digitally record programs to watch them later.

IPTV also supports on-demand programming and pay TV, and will let customers use interactive services that could allow them to do things like cast votes related to programs and access information such as sports scores.

It's a significant win for Microsoft, which has faced some set-backs since rolling out its IPTV software. Last year, Australian operator Telstra Corp. Ltd. dropped out of Microsoft's IPTV early-adopter program. Meanwhile Swisscom Ltd. delayed its launch of Microsoft's IPTV service citing technical difficulties.

Verizon Communications Inc., however, is already offering IPTV using Microsoft's technology, and Telecom Italia SpA and SBC Communications Inc. have signed up to deliver commercial services.

Deutsche Telekom said it extensively tested the Microsoft TV platform. The companies will jointly market the service in Germany, they said.

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