Orange is suspending plans to launch a broadband television service in Britain. It seems that the France Telecom brand, which has had some success with internet protocol television in France, could not see a way to compete with a service from British Telecom. The news comes as Sky is reported to be considering acquiring the customers of Tiscali to become the third biggest broadband provider in the country.

Tom Alexander, the chief executive of Orange UK said of the long-delayed plans to launch a broadband television service in Britain that there was “no roll out imminent”.

In June 2006, France Telecom adopted Orange as a unified consumer brand in Britain with the aim of offering mobile, landline, internet and television services on a single bill. The company announced that it would offer a broadband television service, putting it in direct competition with BT which planned to launch its own offering.

BT Vision finally announced its service in December 2006, saying that it would have “hundreds of thousands” of subscribers within a year. It currently has over 300,000 subscribers and aims to reach at least 2 million by the end of 2011.

Orange announced that it would launch in 2007, but the service never got beyond a technical trial in Leeds. It now seems that Orange considered the proposition to be too similar to that of BT Vision. The company is reassessing its position, while scaling back its broadband roll out to concentrate on improving quality of service.

Orange has just over a million broadband subscribers in Britain, around 10% less than it did a year ago. In comparison, BT Wholesale provides over 8 million of the more than 17 million broadband lines in the country.

Orange has 1.6 million IPTV subscribers in France, where France Télécom first launched its Ma Ligne service with a trial in Lyon back in 2003.

Sky eyes Tiscali
Sky has reportedly offered around £450 million for the British broadband business of Tiscali, which has around 1.8 million customers. An acquisition would make Sky the third biggest broadband provider in the country, after BT and Virgin Media.

Tiscali has its own broadband television operation, acquired from Video Networks, which pioneered the HomeChoice service in London, but as struggled to maintain its modest base of around 50,000 subscribers.

While Sky could use this as a base from which to launch its own broadband television offering, it seems more likely that it will absorb the broadband customers into its own operation and take the opportunity to upsell them its satellite television packages.

With the prospect of BT, Virgin Media and Sky offering a combination of television and broadband services, the decision by Orange to avoid direct competition is hardly surprising.