Swisscom has postponed until some time in 2006 the proposed launch of its Bluewin broadband television service using Microsoft IPTV software.

Swisscom Fixnet says the commercial launch will not be possible in the second half of 2005 as originally planned, “as it has become apparent that the technology currently available is not yet suitable”. Adrian Bult, their chief executive said “High quality and full service provision take precedence at Swisscom”.

The Swiss telephone operator was due to become the first in Europe to provide a commercial internet protocol television service using the Microsoft IPTV platform.

The announcement must be something of a concern for Microsoft, with whom they have been working closely to deliver the IPTV service. According to one report from a Swisscom representative “They aren’t as far along as they though they would be”.

“We and our partners are committed to ensuring that Swisscom can deliver IPTV services to its customers as quickly as possible,” said Moshe Lichtman, head of the Microsoft IPTV division, in a prepared statement.

Microsoft is also engaged in a major deployment with SBC in America, together with their integration partners Alcatel.

Swisscom first announced its collaboration with Microsoft in November 2003, shortly after the initial launch of the Microsoft TV IPTV software. The company says that tests in the autumn of 2004 proved very positive. Over 600 Swiss households in German-speaking Switzerland tested television over broadband and delivered important findings for the continuation of the project.

It is understood that the absence of a hard disk in the set-top box to record programmes and the ability to recieve only one channel at a time due to bandwidth limitations were particular problems for a commercial launch.

Such issues could have been anticipated, and it does not necessarily point to particular problems with the software, but some have suggested that while Microsoft can present a good pitch, it has yet to demonstrate a large scale working deployment.

Meanwhile, Swisscom launched its Bluewin TV 300 service in March, which offers hard disk recording from the standard cable television network.

They are currently in the process of rolling out VDSL broadband, which supports transmission at up to 20 megabits per second. It is expected that around half of Swiss households will be able to benefit from a VDSL line by 2007.

This will enable more than one channel to be received simultaneously, including high-definition programmes, to allow recording of another channel, or viewing different channels in separate rooms.

An initial beta release of the Bluewin TV broadband service for Swisscom and Microsoft employees will be installed by the end of 2005.