Germany’s High-Speed Test Drive

The first of six infopike field tests across Germany got under way in mid-February in Berlin. Each of the interactive test-runs is being conducted under the general direction and sponsorship of German phone and cable monopolist, Deutsche Telekom.

The first test plugged some 50 participants into a digital broadcast network which includes pay-per-view, video-on-demand and tele-shopping. Officials were tight-lipped about details in the early going of the tests, which started late and are reportedly not yet bug-free. Similar tests are planned for Leipzig, Stuttgart, Hamburg, Cologne/Bonn and Munich/Nuremberg, with a total Telekom investment pegged at around DM200 million ($143 million).

On the first day of the Berlin test, Telekom board member Gerd Tenzer said the company was particularly interested in making Berlin, the nation’s once and future capital, a model high-tech metropolis. Since reunification in 1990, Telekom has invested $5 billion on infrastructure in this city and hopes to have a fully digitalized communication and broadcast network within two years. Tenzer speculated that the combined multimedia market in Germany would be worth approximately $9.3 billion by the year 2000, with an annual growth rate of 70%.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Telekom’s plans for a strategic alliance with France Telecom are still under scrutiny by the European Industry Comission.

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