The company is currently rolling out ADSL2+ internet access to exchanges covering 60% of the Dutch population. The tariff is 40 EUR/month but includes free live soccer from the Dutch first league ('Eredivisie'). Versatel is not adding exchanges, by the way. So, in rural areas live-soccer can only be had through a subscription to CanalDigitaal. The ADSL2+ network will be extended to covering more than 60% once there is some indication that demand will justify the investment.
A live TV-stream uses 4 Mbps. Versatel advertises ADSL2+ as a 20 Mbps service, but will only actually sell the socces product when a minimum bandwidth of 6-8 Mbps can be guaranteed (enough for one TV, internet access and telephony). This depends on the availablity of the ADSL2+ network, and also on the distance to the exchange.
At the moment, people can only have one set-top box (for unspecified technical reasons). The modem has room for two (plus 2 wired PC's, several wireless PC's and VoIP).
Everything seems to be working fine. The user interface is fully moron-proof. The TV-portal offers a transparant menu. Apart form the free soccer matches (starting August 12), there are some obvious content categories. For now, these are thinly filled, mainly for testing purposes, but also by way of teasers to the early adapters. It contains buttons for:
- tv: same, to be introduced 05Q4; already, the Dutch and German public (state-owned) networks are available
- video: rights negotiations with a large range of content providers are on-going; so far just some trailers
- e-mail: under construction
- radio: obviously not very useful through the TV-set
Another type of Samsung hardware that could in due course come to the Netherlands is a WiFi/cellular phone. Versatel will begin offering VoIP in 05Q3, but a wireless deal still has to be worked out. Versatel currently resells Telfort, which is being acquired by KPN. And when Versatel merges with Tele2, these companies will be stronger adversaries than ever. Maybe Vodafone will step in, using its experience in Brittain, where it works with BT on the Fusion phone.
Finally, some more details:
- Versatel is a strong believer in 'next generation television': everything On Demand, no more broadcasting. Targeting will go to the next level: content and advertising can be targeted to individual users, since the set-top box delivers a wide range of information (exactly what is watched when) to Versatel.
- Versatel also believes their set-top box (STB), which is pretty much like a PC, will be the center of the home entertainment. It will deliver not just video, but music and photos to the TV as well.
- The 4 media farms in Holland, where the content is hosted, are used for a secondary purpose: anyone who wants video to be delivered through-out the country, can have it hosted on the servers in these farms. There is a trial with a Dutch retail bank. A specially branded channel will be available to all their branches in the Netherlands.
- Similarly, a restaurant chain is interested in having a specially branded channel available to all Versatel subscribers. The channel could be accessible from the TV portal menu.
- Dutch soccer matches are to be produced by EyeWorks for Versatel, Talpa and RTL 5. Each of these three has its own studio to add an individual look-and-feel. Versatel has its studio up and running at the Media Park in Hilversum
- Scoop: Versatel has a deal with Brittain's Premier League. So, live English football as well.