Vodacom has bought set-top boxes from Altech’s Durban-based UEC subsidiary that are capable of delivering both fixed-line and wireless Internet protocol television (IPTV) services to consumers, apparently as part of an internal trial.
Though Vodacom confirms it has bought two decoders for testing, company spokesman Nomsa Thusi says the operator “can’t comment on any other details at this stage”.
Evidence of Vodacom’s interest in IPTV emerged in an interview with Altech CEO Craig Venter on Wednesday. Venter tells TechCentral that Altech is working closely with Vodacom and that the operator has placed a “seed order” for the SA market and has “bigger plans” for the product.
The IP-based set-top box is the result of collaboration between UEC and American semiconductor giant Intel. Its investment business, Intel Capital, pumped $5m into Altech last year using a three-year debt instrument that can be converted into shares if approved by the JSE-listed company’s shareholders.
A big focus between Intel and Altech has been on developing the IP-based set-top box. “We have done a tremendous amount of investment and R&D with them globally and locally where we have developed an IP-based set-top box that is truly amazing,” Venter says. “It really is a very good product [and] we are in active negotiations with numerous clients here locally. Vodacom/Vodafone have partnered with us on a project.”
Venter explains that the new set-top box will offer applications on users’ televisions — “much like your iPhone” — and offer full video over the Internet in a “fully integrated” fashion.
“What’s important is that it’s not in development phase,” he says. “It’s been developed.”
He adds that Intel is working with the Altech group on a number of other initiatives. For example, at vehicle tracking and recovery company Altech Netstar, the two companies are working together to develop in-vehicle “infotainment” solutions. — (c) 2012 NewsCentral Media
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