Ihug poised to take digital TV nationwide with BCL

TVNZ already has at least one likely customer for the $30 million broadband digital network it announced this week would be built by its transmission subsidiary, BCL - Ihug.

TVNZ already has at least one likely customer for its forthcoming broadband digital network - Ihug.

The TVNZ board announced this week that it had approved a $30 million investment by its transmission subsidiary BCL to build a digital microwave radio network to trunk data around the country.

Ihug managing director Nick Wood admits the BCL development is a boon for his company, which has leased frequencies for digital terrestrial transmissions of its IDTV service in a number of centres, but needed an infrastructure to link those centres.

"We haven't committed yet - we're waiting to get the pricing right. But we're looking at using BCL for our trunking. Then from their sites, we'll be using our own frequencies and our own transmission equipment."

Although the BCL network could also be used for Internet traffic, Wood says Ihug can pick up satellite IP bandwidth directly in each transmission area and will continue to do so.

Meanwhile, tests with a limited number of IDTV customers have helped iron out bugs in the system - most of which have centred around the video server Ihug bought from Telecom after the closure of Telecom's First Media cable project.

"We're about to start cranking the handle on customers now - really getting them on," says Wood.

He says the company is looking to a full commercial rollout in Auckland from November 1 and national expansion around March next year.

"We'll be going nationwide with the product hopefully by March or April."

By then, he says, IDTV will be offering "a couple of unique and New Zealand-focused channels" alongside offshore programming.

"We hope to have a good cross-section of programming - and it'll be cheap too. We'll have new pricing next month."

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