A Swiss operator will begin the first European commercial trial of the Microsoft TV system. Swisscom subsidiary Bluewin will deliver television channels to set top boxes over broadband telephone lines.

The initial 600 home trial will provide subscribers with 25 television channels, access to five additional pay television channels and a video-on-demand service, together with digital video recorder functions and the ability to pause live programmes.

The collaboration with Microsoft was first announced back in November 2003. “As the first operator in Europe to trial pay-TV services powered by the Microsoft TV IPTV platform, Bluewin is now able to offer its DSL customers competitive, next-generation TV services, both broadcast and on-demand, combined with innovative communications and information services,” said Tim Fritzley of Microsoft TV. “The huge advantage of this technology is that it is interactive and has made delivery of television programmes possible on-demand”.

The IPTV service provides television over internet protocols, allowing providers to offer the so-called ‘triple-play’ of voice, video and data services. According to Swisscom, the bandwidth for video will be between 1.2 and 1.4Mbits.

The tests will last for around four months, after which work will begin on the market launch of Bluewin TV in 2005.

The move is a direct challenge to Cablecom, which supplies about two million Swiss homes, around half the market, with cable-delivered television and radio channels and recently launched a digital telephone service.

Switzerland has around 700,000 ADSL broadband subscribers, with Bluewin having the largest share of the market.

France currently leads Europe in the provision of digital television services via ADSL broadband telephone lines.

In the UK VideoNetworks provides the Homechoice broadband television service to subscribers in London.