iiNet mulls IPTV without BoB requirement

Up until now, iiNet maintained that customers would not be able to sign up to the IPTV offering without owning a BoB ADSL router

National broadband provider iiNet yesterday held out the possibility that customers would be able to sign up to its internet television (IPTV) offering without needing one of its BoB ADSL routers, in a wide-ranging briefing about the FetchTV-based service (demonstrated in video above).

Up until now, iiNet has maintained that customers would not be able to sign up to the IPTV offering -- which launched this month -- without also owning one of the customised routers, with iiNet chief executive Michael Malone having noted the device was a piece in the integrated set-top box through to core network puzzle required for the best service.

Yesterday at the offices of fetchtv in Sydney, iiNet chief technology officer Greg Bader backed the company's previous statements, but noted things could open up towards the end of this year.

iiNet and FetchTV -- represented at the briefing by CEO Scott Lorson -- also yesterday laid out a slab of new details about the IPTV offering.

For starters, the actual FetchTV set-top box is based on Broadcom's 7413 chipset and uses standard connections -- when the box is opened up, the hardware inside -- digital TV tuners, a standard 3.5" hard disk, SATA port and so on -- is not dissimilar to what can be found inside many desktop PCs.

The box's 1TB hard disk is partitioned off into separate sections so that it can store recorded free to air TV, administration settings and downloaded content.

iiNet's FetchTV 2 plan comes with access to a number of subscription streaming television channels -- including CNBC Australia, BBC World News, National Geographic, Nat Geo Adventure, Baby TV and Discovery and MTV channels.

In addition, the monthly package includes 30 movies per month at no extra charge -- although customers will not be able to choose which out of the Movie Box movies they can watch each month. The movies are automatically downloaded onto users' set-top boxes, with a quarter of their number refreshed each week.

Some of the available titles, according to iiNet, are Harry Potter, Legally Blonde, Spy Kids and Reservoir Dogs.

Customers have two options to manage the automatic downloading of movie and television content to the FetchTV set-top box -- you can set a timeout option that will stop the machine streaming TV content after a certain time if left alone -- or there is another option which will limit the amount of channels that can be streamed simultanenously to one -- instead of three.

iiNet's network, as well as the BoB devices, support quality of service to make sure a household ADSL connection can handle normal internet use on top of the FetchTV service. The actual FetchTV streaming TV channels will soak up about 2Mbps of bandwidth, with the video on demand service taking an additional 512kbps.

The FetchTV service will ship with what is called video on command -- which will allow users to stream programs such as the Big Bang Theory, for example -- but not yet with video on demand services that will allow users to pay for a certain film, download it and watch it. This "pull video on demand" service is a key feature of Telstra's T-Box offering and is planned to come to iiNet's platform in the next three to six months.

Since it first unveiled its pricing, iiNet appears to have cut the cost of its FetchTV offering. When it first unveiled its pricing on the service several weeks ago, users would have had to pay $29.95 per month to rent the set-top box, along with a $149.95 setup fee, for a total spend of $868.75 over 24 months. Buying the set-top box outright would have cost $499, plus a monthly access fee of $19.95 over 24 months, for a total cost of $977.80 over 24 months.

However now iiNet appears to have cut the set-up fee from $149.95 to $99, and the up-front box purchase from $499 to $399. The monthly access fees on a 24-month contract remain the same.

FetchTV is also currently developing an iPhone application for the set-top box, and demonstrated a range of other software, such as elementary games, and integration with social networking platforms such as Facebook -- all on users' televisions. The set-top box has similar personal video recorder functionality to other PVRs -- such as an electronic program guide, the ability to record TV content and so on.

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Renai LeMay

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