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Hong Kong to test phone vid-on-demand

HONG KONG — Hong Kong Telecommunications Ltd. plans to start a trial of video-on-demand in July or August in which TV and video will be transmitted through telephone lines, director of strategic planning Willliam Lo said Monday.

Asian first

The trial will be followed by market research of 100 homes in October or November to find out the kinds of programs people want to watch, Lo told a news conference.

If the trial is successful, the service could be a first in Asia. Video-on-demand trials are also being carried out in Britain, the U.S. and Australia at the moment.

It could also be a precedent for a multimedia interactive service in which viewers could engage in virtual reality shopping, banking and so on, said Lo.

Hong Kong Telecom first announced plans for cable TV and video-on-demand in November. Cable TV cannot start commercially until the exclusive license of the sole operator, Wharf Cable Ltd., expires in 1996.

Technology at hand

“This is completely new and the investment we are talking about is high. We do have the technology which is working, so people are trying to start looking at how to process it,” said Lo.

He gave no exact figure for investment. A video server will transmit video signals through existing telephone lines to a set-top box installed on the viewer’s TV set and equipped with special software and a modem.

Companies supplying the equipment for the service are IBM for the software, Westell for the modem and Tadiran Technologies for the digital cross connection enabling the reception.

They were chosen out of 40 companies that expressed interest in the project.

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