The parent company of NTL and Chorus will launch its digital video recorder (DVR) service in the coming weeks, according to Mark Coan, sales and marketing director of UPC Ireland.
The new offering will be in direct competition with BSkyBâ€™s Sky+ package, an d will allow viewers to record programming straight to their set-top box, as well as pause and rewind live television.
â€˜â€˜The service will operate on the existing infrastructure, so anyone who can get digital TV with us now will be able to switch over to it,â€ said Coan.
He added that he was hoping to offer the new service without an installation fee or once-off purchase charge.
Coan would not be drawn on an exact date for the launch. He was also unable to confirm the monthly cost of the service. However, it is expected to be about â‚¬8 per month on top of existing digital TV prices.
Sky Digitalâ€™s DVR service, Sky+, does not have an additional monthly fee but does incur a one-off fee of â‚¬149 and a single-room installation fee of â‚¬75.
DVR devices have become increasingly popular in Europe and the US in recent years, and are quickly taking over the role traditionally held by the VHS recorder.
The device being included in the UPC service is made by Thomson, and will house a 160GB hard drive, which will allow for up to 80 hoursâ€™ recording.
One of the better-known features of some DVR services, such as TiVo in the US, is the deviceâ€™s ability to record automatically programming it thinks users will like, based on their regular viewing habits. Coan said this would not feature in the initial service, but could easily be added at a later date.
â€˜â€˜We are able to send updates remotely to our devices, so a software feature like that could be added once customers have become used to the basic service,â€ said Coan.
â€˜â€˜The new boxes also have a built-in cable modem, so interactive services such as video on demand (VoD) can also be brought on stream without having to further upgrade the hardware.â€
However, Coan said that VoD features would be unlikely to launch before early 2008.
UPC has also begun to upgrade its infrastructure in preparation for its forthcoming high-definition service, which Coan said he hoped to see launched by the end of this year.
In recent months, the company has been merging operations and services at NTL and Chorus, in anticipation of a rebrand under the UPC name, which Coan said the new services would be a major part of.
â€˜â€˜We want the rebrand to be more than just changing the name over the door,â€ he said. â€˜â€˜We want UPC to be seen as a multimedia player, rather than just a TV company.â€
The company is in the process of rolling out broadband to the remainder of its network as well as its recently launched â€˜digital telephonyâ€™ or voice over internet protocol (VoIP) service, take-up of which is unknown.
While saying it was not something on the immediate agenda, Coan said a mobile telephony service was a possibility in the future.
UPC already offers this service in other European markets, while the recently formed Virgin Media group in Britain also offers so-called â€˜quadruple-playâ€™ packages of TV, broadband, house phone and mobile telephony.