While Lithuania may not be the most dynamic market in Central and Eastern Europe, recent events have shown it to be no backwater either.
The news that the incumbent telco TEO LT has finally launched a DTT platform should come as no surprise, given that it has been working steadily towards the objective for at least two years. The real turning point came this January, when it managed to secure ownership of UAB NST, a company licensed to broadcast 24 channels over DTT, and thereby gained access to content needed to make a Lithuanian platform a reality.
Not that TEO LT is a newcomer to the TV industry. The company, which lists TeliaSonera as a majority (60%) shareholder, launched Lithuania’s first IPTV service in October 2006. Known initially as Gala TV but recently re-branded Interactive GALA, it has been growing steadily, adding VOD to its offer last November and ending the year with 17,500 subscribers.
TEO LT is also busy building a FTTH network that will initially cover five of country’s largest cities, with investment in the project during 2007-2010 set to reach €30 million.
All this is likely to make worrying reading for the Lithuanian cable industry, which though large still remains highly fragmented. While its leading players are all triple play companies, and in the case of at least one (Balticum, the market leader) also offer HDTV, they can now expect competition to intensify – not only from TEO LT but alternative carriers, some of which may also shortly launch IPTV services.
While DTH, in the shape of MTG’s Viasat, has an important role to play in the digital TV marketplace, it seems that battle lines in Lithuania have now clearly been drawn between cable (and MMDS) on the one hand and TEO LT on the other. Interesting times lie ahead for the Baltic republic.