Amid speculation of delays and setbacks, the number two US telecoms group, SBC Communications, says its new fibre-optic network is still on target to start delivering sophisticated video and TV services by late this year or early next.

Costing SBC $4 billion (€3.3bn; £2.2bn) and taking three years to create, the network will ultimately reach 18 million residences and be able to provide a plethora of digital services, including TV - courtesy of $400 million being spent on Microsoft's IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) software.

SBC says it is planning to launch video services in one commercial market by early 2006 at the latest. Finance director Richard Lindner said current tests in limited markets were going well.

However, a number of market analysts believe SBC may have to defer a roll out because of technological glitches.

In May, a European telecommunications company, Swisscom, asserted that the "technology currently available is not yet suitable", rescheduling the introduction of its own video service until 2006.

The problems have been acknowledged by Microsoft, but the company's TV marketing director, Ed Gracyzk, maintained the IPTV software was not at fault and would be provided to schedule, despite rumoured delays harmonising various technologies.

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff