A ‘Vision’ Of The Future?

Originally published in Matrix 187 on 17.03.2008

  • The BT Vision service launched in the UK on 4th December 2006
  • The set-top box is manufactured by Philips,
  • Sky Digital and BT Vision are two separate services and they don’t conflict with each other. You can have both.
  • Motorola will supply the next -generation of BT Vision box.


For our first online edition of Matrix, I thought it would be appropriate to look into something called IPTV, sometimes called broadband TV. Simply put, IPTV means watching TV across your internet connection (IP = Internet Protocol). This does not mean watching TV on your computer, although this is an option. It generally requires a set-top box of some description which connects to the internet and then either streams or downloads content to watch directly on your TV.
In other words, IPTV allows customers to watch TV shows and films as they want, when they want. It’s a great concept. But where it breaks down is at the level of the IPTV suppliers and the fact that, for the consumer, the UK offers very little in the way of choice. A key factor is geographical location. Virgin Media generally only caters for highly populated areas while BSKYB only provide satellite TV (one way signal).

Over the past couple of years, an alternative has been touted. BT Vision is a hybrid of IPTV and Freeview, providing an IPTV service alongside a free Digital Video Recorder with two Digital receivers built in. These were enough to attract me to the service. But what is the reality of Freeview, and isn’t it a case of David versus Goliath in terms of the huge number of channels that Satellite and Cable offer?

The Digital Divide

I am not in a Cable served area, but I did have a BT phone line and broadband service. In January 2007, I paid a £90 installation fee in exchange for what BT call a V-Box – actually a re-branded Phillips DVR with a 160gb hard drive and a BT Home Hub (wireless) router. At the time, a BT engineer installed the service. These days, if you want to save on the pennies, there is the option of a self-install service for only £30.


So what did I get? Well, one of the attractive elements of the BT Vision deal is the

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