BT will use the Microsoft TV IPTV Edition software platform to deliver internet protocol TV over broadband in the United Kingdom. BT plans to trial TV over broadband services powered by Microsoft TV IPTV Edition in early 2006, with delivery of a commercial service expected to begin in the summer of 2006.

The news comes after a settlement with the UK communications regulator Ofcom intended to avert a possible imposed break-up of BT. This enables BT to press ahead with its plans for 21CN, its proposed 21st century network based on internet protocols.

“BT continues to demonstrate its commitment to broadband in the UK
through the development of a portfolio of innovative broadband services designed to deliver more and more value to our customers,” said Gavin Patterson, group managing director of BT Retail.

“BT and Microsoft share a common vision for converged entertainment in the home,” he continued. “TV over broadband services will play an important role in BT’s triple-play offering for consumers. Our approach of over-the-air broadcast and broadband-delivered video-on-demand, interactivity and enhanced support is the perfect solution and complements existing TV propositions already in the U.K. market.”

“The combination of Microsoft’s best-in-class technology with BT’s 21st-century network will result in an incredibly exciting set of next-generation entertainment and communication services available to consumers across the UK,” he concluded.

Moshe Lichtman, corporate vice president of the Microsoft TV division at Microsoft said: “BT is a great example of one of the world’s leading network operators choosing Microsoft TV as the software platform for its digital TV and converged entertainment services.”

“We are very pleased to be working with such a well-respected and innovative operator as BT. Microsoft TV IPTV Edition will enable a full suite of integrated entertainment and communication services that will set the bar for what consumers will expect.”

“The decision by BT to partner with the world’s largest software company is not entirely unexpected but will be a surprise to some. It is clearly great news for Microsoft and is a major boost for their ambitions in television arena,” said Dr William Cooper of independent consultancy informitv and co-author of a forthcoming report on IPTV. “Major telcos like SBC and Verizon have already backed the Microsoft platform, but Swisscom recently caused some concern when they postponed their own launch, saying very publicly that the technology currently available is not yet suitable. Telstra in Australia also decided not to go ahead with a trial of the software, although they indicated that this was for internal and market reasons, rather than anything to do with the Microsoft solution.”

BT has appointed two staff from satellite broadcaster BSkyB in preparation for the launch of its service, known internally as project Nevis. Dan Marks, chief executive of BT Television Services was recently quoted as saying that they “have the experience and skills to help develop and launch a world class TV service.”