Sky Aims For Wireless Sky+ TV Boxes

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Sky TV's Brian Sullivan, Head of Products and ServicesLast week Sky took the wraps off its long promised broadband service - Sky Broadband. Provided the home is on Sky's ADSL network, Sky subscribers can get a basic internet service for free, or a bells and whistles job with very fast download speeds at a very competitive price. But what future developments can be expected?

Sky's Products and Services chief Brian Sullivan has been giving a taste of what we might expect.

Offering broadband is a no-brainer for Sky. It means the satellite broadcaster is able to offer a full package of services (internet, phone and TV) and so compete with rivals like NTL/Telewest and BT. What is perhaps slightly less obvious is that it will also play an important role in shaping Sky's TV services.

The original press launch answered a lot of questions about Sky's plans, but it also threw up many more. How will broadband merge with satellite? Will Sky deliver HD content over the web? And what exactly will the next generation Sky+ box, mentioned almost as an aside by CEO James Murdoch at the the launch, look like and do? put those questions and more to Sky's Director of Customer Products and Services, Brian Sullivan.

Why do you feel you have to embrace broadband as a TV delivery mechanism. Doesn't satellite offer you all you need?

Satellite is a brilliant TV mechanism in that it offers a huge amount of bandwidth in a one way stream from the satellite to the viewer. It is perfect for this and has enabled us to launch HDTV, which uses an awful lot of bandwidth, ahead of our rivals. However we recognise that we need to marry it with a return path that enables interactivity, and DSL broadband is an ideal solution.

In an answer to one of the questions James Murdoch mentioned that a new box would be launched by the end of 2007 that would offer broadband video content direct to the TV.

Well we have a box that can do that already in the HD Sky+ unit. It is compatible with the latest video codec, MPEG4, has a powerful processor and excellent graphics facilities. It also has an Ethernet connector on board so it could be connected to a broadband network. In the future we could offer all kinds of advanced interactivity, such as personalised content, video on demand etc. The broadband link will also help us take our gaming offering to the next level.

James Murdoch did however mention a specific box that will go on sale in 18 months time?

That is actually the next generation Sky+ box. We aren't saying much about it at the moment but we can tell you that one of its key features is that it will enable user to stream programmes from their Sky+ box to different TVs.

Will this be done wired or wirelessly?

Obviously wireless is what we are aiming for and we have been conducting research in this area with the University of Bristol. I think we will be able to offer wireless delivery of standard definition programmes from the Sky box to another set from day one. This is however the first step and we have plans to offer wireless delivery of multiple programmes from a Sky+ box in the future.

Full interview on HDTVUK