Optus iTV to linger in limbo

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A green light from the ACCC for the Optus-Foxtel content deal will make no difference to Optus' ongoing interactive TV trial, which will remain in limbo - indefinitely - while Optus studies its trial customers.

Optus consumer and multimedia managing director Martin Dalgleish said the trial, which has been frozen at 3000 subscribers since February, will continue in its current form.

Optus and its content providers, he said, continue to “learn” from the trial.

"You have to give the customer time to get used to the product," Dalgleish said.

However, earlier, Optus chief operating officer Paul O'Sullivan had spruiked the benefits of the C1 satellite, both for Optus' finances and for consumers, saying 60 to 70 percent of the satellite's capacity had already been sold. "Importantly for consumers, this satellite will provide the capability for a digital interactive TV service right across Australia," he said.

While the new bird would appear to make iTV a flyer, Dalgleish said Optus must be sure that consumers will be happy with the service and continue to use it long after the initial novelty has worn off.

"We have to be absolutely confident that the consumer usage pattern will be there to support this model," Dalgleish said.

However, he would not be drawn on when Optus might be able to draw some conclusions from the trial and turn it into a full commercial service.

He also would not comment on whether the launch of the new C1 satellite would facilitate the delivery of a full commercial service.

"We will continue to consider opportunities to extend our delivery, whether it be by HFC or by other means," Dalgleish said.

He said Optus' entire HFC network is digitised, meaning it can deliver interactive services. The main cost of delivering such services, he said, is in the set-top box.

However, earlier, Optus chief operating officer Paul O'Sullivan had spruiked the benefits of the C1 satellite, both for Optus' finances and for consumers, saying 60 to 70 percent of the satellite's capacity had already been sold. "Importantly for consumers, this satellite will provide the capability for a digital interactive TV service right across Australia," he said.

The 3000 Sydney subscribers, meanwhile, continue to pay their either $39.95 or $59.95 per month for a mix of TV, internet and email services. Asked if the status of the trial is affecting the participation of content providers, Dalgleish said only one content provider has dropped out in the past six months.

Content providers are also "getting the same learnings," he said.

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