Russian set top specialist SmartLabs has made off with the contract for the largest telco operator in the Czech Republic in O2 – no longer a relation to Telefonica, but the incumbent telco that was acquired in a local buyout and then borrowed the O2 name.
O2 is not only the largest fixed network in the Czech Republic (population 10.5 million) but also runs the largest cellular network. It has teamedup with SmartLabs, which says it has 6 million customers at operators as well known as MTS and Rostelecom – both Russian giants. Typically we cynically expect SmartLabs to get contracts by citing low price, but this deal shows that it’s a genuinely innovative supplier.
O2 Czech Republic was a thorn in Telefonica’s side, with the regulator pushing for access to the incumbent telco network, and it sold it off in 2013 to build funding to buy EPlus in Germany (a deal it subsequently squeezed past the European Commission).
The bulk of the business was bought by local investment house PPF which also acquired Telefonica’s Slovakian operations – both retaining the O2 name. Telefonica promised to remain a minority investors until 2018, a period that has now expired, but had just under 5%.
Interestingly SoftAtHome has done a Home Gateway box with O2 Czech under a year ago, providing smart WiFi into a box built by Korean firm KaonMedia running on the end of VDSL3 or V-Plus lines up at around 360 Mbps.
The SoftAtHome software can also manage WiFi, home security, remote controls for home appliances, lights and the fire alarm.
But that has not led to the set top contract going the same way and SmartLabs won out. SmartLabs said it created an entirely new UHD hybrid set top specifically for O2, including a multiscreen system which can deliver from both DVB-T2 broadcasting and from any IP network.
But the most groundbreaking feature it is calling Multidimensional TV. This is for sports fans who can multi-task, or better still multi-view. The viewer can monitor up to 6 football, tennis or hockey matches in a multidimensional mosaic on the screen at the same time and select from multiple viewing angles for each match and also select the commentary they prefer – presumably commentary in their language and just for one of the games. And all of this can be dropped into a TV, a personal computer or a smartphone or tablet.
“The plan is to open the system to third-party applications in the next phase. That will make it possible, for example, to have an integrated YouTube player or a DVB-T/T2 tuner for terrestrial broadcasting even without a subscription to O2 TV,” explains Branislav Valo, who is responsible for managing O2 TV.
“We have been delighted to participate in such an ambitious project to develop a service that delivers the whole range of interactive features for linear channels and on-demand content, multiscreen functionality and the ability to view several programs at once on the same screen.