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Unity Telecom preparing another OTT challenger

Wed, 05/16/2012 - 2:32pm
Brian Santo

Unity Telecom is preparing to roll out a hybrid TV service, based on Entone’s FusionTV platform, that Unity Telecom argues will entirely avoid retransmission regulations.

The start-up plans to combine free-to-air (FTA) programming with Web-based services. The Web-based content is standard stuff; the issue is the broadcast channels.

Other alternative services delivering broadcast TV through broadband have run afoul of broadcasters that argue that any such arrangement should be covered by a retransmission consent agreement.

Unity Telecom intends to skirt the issue by providing subscribers with customer premises equipment that includes a TV antenna. The company did not identify who will provide the CPE.

(Aereo, another start-up, is trying another twist on this approach to similarly avoid retrans rules. It is setting up an array of TV antennas and dedicating one antenna to each subscriber. The FTA signal is delivered via a broadband connection. Broadcasters are challenging the scheme.)

Unity Telecom said FTA content will be integrated with Web-based content. The company said Vudu will be one of the over-the-top providers it will be working with. The service will also include access to sites such as Flickr, Picasa, Facebook and Twitter.

“Unity Telecom is dedicated to providing next-gen broadband solutions,” said Chuck Schneider, president and CEO of Unity Telecom. “Entone’s FusionTV stands in stark contrast to other broadband TV models that defy the FCC and broadcast industry. With FusionTV, we steer clear of legal gray areas concerning broadband TV solutions. Entone’s FusionTV enables us to quickly deploy a video-centric service across our entire broadband footprint without the complexities and cost associated with local programming, allowing us to cost-effectively deliver a differentiating broadband TV service that blends linear TV with cloud-based media services and over-the-top content.”

Unity Telecom said it has a nationwide network of more than 3,500 retail locations through which it will offer Unity TV; the company did not identify this network. The company expects to begin offering the service by mid-summer. Unity Telecom is now offering VoIP, and it has a placeholder on its website suggesting it plans to eventually add wireless services to its bundle.

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