Thursday, June 29, 2006

IPTV - AT&T Following Canada's Lead

It's not often that Canada is ahead of the U.S. in the IP communications arena, especially when it comes to services and applications, but IPTV is a case in point.

Incredible as it seems, our two smallest ILECs - Manitoba Telecom and Saskatchewan Telecom - have each been offering variations of IPTV to consumers for a couple of years. These provinces each cover huge swaths of geography, but have relatively small populations - roughly a million people each. Despite this, MTS and Sasktel have been innovators on many fronts, and are touchstones for how North Americans are taking to IPTV.

Aside from the links to their offerings above, the current issue of Canadian Business magazine is a good point of reference to understand what the fuss is about. Each carrier has about 50,000 IPTV subscribers each, which is pretty decent penetration considering the population base. Short of doing some lookups with Statistics Canada, let's say there are 300,000 households in each province (on average, a HH has 3 or 4 people). That's a 17% market penetration. I'm sure AT&T or Verizon would take that any day.

The article is a good primer about why they're doing IPTV and the lessons learned along the way, and I'd recommend it to anyone looking to understand the realities of offering IPTV. The writer was good enough to cite me briefly, and I was happy to contribute to the story. I hope you like it.

I also find the article good timing in light of AT&T's formal IPTV launch of U-verse this week. It's available to 5,000 homes in the San Antonio area, and its much anticipated rollout across their footprint will really set the stage for a Triple Play showdown with the cabelcos. We're expecting the same here in Canada, as Telus is betting big on IPTV, and Bell has been testing with Microsoft for the longest time.

On a more human scale, fellow blogger Alan Weinkrantz - a San Antonio resident - has been trialing U-verse for some time. He's been sharing his experiences since mid-May in a separate blog called SAtechBLOG, and it's been getting a lot of attention, including coverage recently in the WSJ. Check it out!

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