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RealTime IT News

BellSouth Preps IPTV Screen Tests

BellSouth said it will conduct market trials of Internet Protocol TV next summer as it mulls whether or not it wants to offer video.

Mark Feidler, Cingular's president and COO, made the announcement Tuesday at the carrier's annual analyst day in New York. In his presentation, Feidler noted that the Atlanta company is still evaluating the business opportunity for IPTV.

Over the past year, BellSouth has been more cautious than its Baby Bell brethren on IPTV. Verizon and SBC (which now goes by the AT&T brand and trading symbol) have been more aggressive both on operational and regulatory sides.

Still, the company has been laying the groundwork for IPTV, should it decide it makes economic sense. Feidler said that BellSouth's fiber-to-the-curb system -- which can deliver IPTV, as well as high-speed Internet, and Voice over IP service -- now passes 1.2 million homes.

IPTV is attractive because it allows telecoms to better compete with cable giants such as Comcast . IPTV services are expected to include customizable channel lineups, video-on-demand, digital video recording, interactive program guides, event notifications and content protection features.

However, a number of hurdles must be cleared before rollouts are widespread.

At an industry conference this fall, BellSouth CTO Bill Smith said the integration of IPTV, VoIP, wireless -- as well as back office tasks of provisioning and billing -- will be among the greatest challenges in rolling out new IP-powered services.

In the interim, BellSouth continues to offer its customers video through a partnership with satellite TV provider DirecTV. Today it announced a partnership with a DirecTV contractor to offer bundled services to customers in apartment and condominium complexes throughout the Southeast.