Portugal Telecom launches free digital TV service

LISBON, April 29 (Reuters) - Portugal Telecom <PTC.LS) on Wednesday launched a free-of-charge digital terrestrial television service (DTT) covering 40 percent of the population and is analysing a paid DTT service, CEO Zeinal Bava said.

Besides offering digital-quality broadcasts, DTT also provides services such as a TV guide and digital recording. Five European countries offer a DTT service.

The DTT rollout is an EU requirement, with analog services due to be switched off in April 2012.

PT won both DTT licences -- paid and free-of-charge in a tender -- last year, but the process was delayed when the only other bidder, Sweden’s Airplus, appealed the decision saying the jury had not been impartial.

Airplus earlier this month dropped the appeal.

“We’re still analysing the paid DTT service,” Bava said. Last month he said the company was assessing the impact of the delay to the paid service from the change in the tender circumstances with Airplus’ protests.

Public works minister Mario Lino said DTT “is the new way to watch TV in Portugal” and added that PT expects to reach 80 percent of the population covered by the end of the year and 100 percent by 2010.

PT already offers a paid-TV service through its fixed-line network, competing with cable operators such as the market leader Zon ZON.LS.

Reporting by Elisabete Tavares, writing by Shrikesh Laxmidas; Editing by Andrew Macdonald