While the mainstream media continue to be excited by the empty promise that is 3DTV, the true revolution is coming from new IPTV services launching through the various ISP’s. TPG have had their free offering of foreign language and public domain content for several years now. iiNet have finally announced the launch of Fetch TV, with Internode soon to follow with the same service. And now today comes further information on Telstra’s T-Box.
What is the T-Box and will it revolutionise Australian television?
To that second question, the answer is probably no. But, it’s certainly a very interesting device.
The T-Box is a dual tuner PVR with a 320gig hard drive. Built by Netgem, the device will be able to record free to air TV, as well as download content from the Bigpond channels and the Bigpond movies on demand service. The box can be purchased for $299, or in installments at $11 per month.
Unlike many PVR’s on the market, it appears that the T-Box is not Freeview compliant in that it will allow users to fast forward through recorded shows at 600 times the normal playing speed. Freeview boxes are restricted to a 30x limit.
Currently movies downloaded from Bigpond Movies are DVD quality, however HD quality films are expected to be made available within six months. Additionally, a USB connection on the box is expected to allow users to watch video content through the device.
Telstra are in a difficult position. While they have a significant stake in Foxtel, they are also keen not to be left behind by other ISP’s rolling out IPTV services (thereby limiting the number of potential subscribers). As such, the T-Box will be a different IPTV experience to their rivals who will roll out pay television-style services.
From its launch, the T-Box will serve as a free to air TV PVR as well as serving as a gateway to Bigpond media offerings.
The strength of the T-Box content offerings will be access to sport. Bigpond currently offers access to AFL, NRL, V8 Supercars and Horse Racing. Also on offer is access to news and music channels.
Movies can also be rented (at a cost) through their on demand service. Additionally, the unit serves as a gateway to third party content like YouTube.
Further content will be made available through the T-Box, with the suggestion made that channels currently available on pay television platforms may make their way to the T-Box.
The T-Box is also rocking a rather lovely looking user interface.
The T-Box, at its launch date, actually represents quite good value indeed. As an additional subscription service, it would be awful, but as a PVR and gateway to some okay content already available on “Bigpond TV”, it’s actually quite decent. A dual-tuner HD PVR is likely to set back consumers much more than the $299 being charged by Telstra. If anything, the T-Box serves as some solid competition to TiVo.
For existing Telstra customers in the market for a PVR, it would be a difficult proposition looking beyond this. With no ongoing costs (at least not from the launch date), and data not counting towards ones monthly allowance, the T-Box is a solid little product pitched at Mums and Dads across Australia.
The box is expected to be made available in mid-June to consumers.