MTS rides quad-play wave with plans for rural satellite pay-TV service

Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) revealed plans to launch satellite TV services in rural areas of Russia this month, indicating that a current quad-play trend is not restricted solely to West European operators.

The Russia-based operator will use leased capacity on Asia Broadcast Satellite's ABS 2 bird, which Via Satellite reports covers 95 per cent of Russia. MTS has been planning to add satellite TV to its portfolio for several months, and will operate the service in conjunction with parent company Sistema Mass Media (SMM), the news outlet added.

Satellite TV is one of the fastest growing segments within the broader pay TV market, Vitaly Studitskikh, director for satellite TV at MTS, told Via Satellite. Studitskikh said the satellite TV subscriber base is increasing by around 15 per cent each year, and pointed to predictions that revenues for the sector will grow by 40 per cent annually through to 2018, when the market value will hit at least RUB31 billion (€468 million/$578 million).

MTS will use the satellite capacity to extend pay-TV coverage to parts of Russia not covered by its cable network. The company will deploy set-top boxes with built in 3G modems that will enable subscribers to access services including online payments, social networks, and catch-up TV services, Via Satellite added.

The Russian operator's move comes as several European communication service providers are adding--or considering including--TV services as part of bundled quad-play offers.

Mobile operators in the UK, for example, are increasingly eyeing TV services as part of a quad-play push that could prove essential to stave off the threat of competition from fixed-line players BT and TalkTalk, which are seeking a route into the wireless market.

EE recently launched a home TV service that adds to its current mobile and fixed line services in the market. Vodafone is cautiously considering a similar move in the UK to complement similar quad-play services elsewhere in its European footprint. Reports this week linked the company to a potential bid for Virgin Media owner Liberty Global, though CEO Vittorio Colao subsequently denied the plan, the Telegraph reported.

Meanwhile, operators in Portugal are moving beyond quad-play into quintuple play services, which combine mobile voice, fixed voice, fixed broadband, TV, and mobile broadband services.

Portuguese regulator Anacom this week revealed the number of subscribers to bundled services in the country hit 2.8 million in the third quarter of 2014, up 3.1 per cent on the same period of 2013.

For more:
- see this Via Satellite report
- view this Telegraph article

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