Vodafone plans soft launch next month for its pay-TV service
Vodafone is putting the final touches to its heavily delayed pay-TV service for the UK, the next stage in its bid to catch up with broadband rivals such as BT and TalkTalk. The mobile giant is working towards an initial “soft” launch of its set-top box next month, sources said. It remains possible that the project, which has been beset by technical difficulties, could slip again, however.

Vodafone first planned to launch a pay-TV service last November, but has been forced to push back the plans multiple times since then.

It is understood that the service, based on technology developed in Israel by a company called Kaltura, will be focused on internet streaming and on demand services. Vodafone already has a deal in place for Sky’s Now TV streaming service on smartphones, which will allow its pay-TV set-top box customers access to live football.

However, industry sources said Vodafone has not yet been able to strike a deal with BT for access to BT Sport.

The company is attempting to build a “quad-play” of mobile, broadband, pay-TV and home phone service in its domestic market long after rivals.

It is currently mounting a major marketing push for its broadband service, launched last year, after it became the first big-name operator to scrap separate line rental charges, ahead of regulatory changes.

Vodafone’s pay-TV service will start from scratch with no exclusive programming in an increasingly crowded market. As well as the satellite and cable giants Sky and Virgin Media, consumers can now choose to augment their entertainment options with so-called “pay-lite” options from BT and TalkTalk.

Sky has responded with its Now TV set-top box, which now offers the main terrestrial channels as well as streaming.

Meanwhile Amazon is gearing up for a big push for its Fire TV set-top box alongside the launch of the Grand Tour, the big-budget motoring programme it has ordered from the former Top Gear team.

Despite the challenges, telecoms operators increasingly view pay-TV as a service they must offer alongside broadband to attract and retain subscribers.

As with its broadband service, Vodafone is likely to initially offer pay-TV to its own staff and then existing customers as it irons out technical problems, before a full scale launch in the new year.