Telecom Italia has begun free trials of an internet protocol television service in four Italian cities in preparation for a live launch across the country this autumn.

The trial involves more than a thousand households in Rome, Milan, Bologna and Palermo. A commercial service will be rolled out to 21 cities this autumn, potentially reaching over four million households.

As well as traditional programmes offered by a selection of TV broadcasters, a range of video on demand content is available during this trial phase, including films, news, finance, sport and music.

The full commercial IPTV service will offer live Serie A TIM and B TIM Italian football, top Italian basketball, a library of 600 films plus 30 new films per month, reality shows and live events.

The service will be available over a 4Mbps broadband telephone line through a set-top box connected to an ADSL modem which will also provide wireless internet access. An infra-red keyboard will also be provided to allow users to access the web and send and receive email directly from their TV.

The trials are being conducted with technology partners Alcatel, Microsoft and Pirelli.

Alcatel is supplying technologies including the latest generation of ADSL access devices and its Open Media Suite set-top box platform. Microsoft TV IPTV Edition software will be used to test and offer a new generation of for-payment video services and content. Pirelli Broadband Solutions will be providing intelligent modular routers.

Telecom Italia will be competing directly against FastWeb, which also offers video services over broadband, as well as satellite operator Sky Italia.

The Telecom Italia Group includes mobile operator TIM, Telecom Italia Media, which includes the La7 channel, and Olivetti.