Juan Pablo Conti ©RapidTVNews | 24-09-2011

Mexican Carlos Slim's mobile phone giant Claro has taken a crucial step towards becoming a video supplier in Argentina.

While local regulation blocks both fixed and cellular telephony providers from competing in the pay-TV market, Claro seems to have found a way to – at least – roll out a video-on-demand (VOD) service.

In a move apparently designed to show Cablevisión, Argentina's largest cable operator, the type of competition it might soon be facing in the multichannel business, earlier this week Claro launched a 50 Mbit/s residential broadband service. The announcement was made only a couple of days after Cablevisión had introduced, with great fanfare, a 30 Mbit/s, DOCSIS 3.0-based product which would have cemented its reputation as the country's fastest broadband supplier.

Initially available in a handful of Greater Buenos Aires neighbourhoods, Claro's broadband offering comes courtesy of a state-of-the-art fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network that the company has been building for the past few months. Already passing some 300,000 homes, the telco plans to extend its FTTH infrastructure to several new areas throughout the country.

It is via this fibre optics network that the operator hopes to enter the Argentine digital entertainment market.

Had it not been because of the local restrictions in place, the company has already given plenty of clues as to the type of platform that it would have preferred to compete with Cablevisión, DirecTV et al. Both in Paraguay (where in July it launched a nationwide pay-TV service) and Uruguay (where it plans to replicate its so far successful Paraguayan experience), Claro has turned to direct-to-home (DTH) satellite technology.

While the operator would still be forbidden from using its new FTTH network to launch a subscription-based channel line-up, it could use it to offer an "à la carte" service in which viewers would only pay for the content they consumed.

Rogelio Viesca Arrache, the CEO of Claro Argentina, admitted to Prensario Internacional that the company was working on a VOD service which it hoped to have up and running by the end of this year. "We haven't yet chosen a content provider, but we want to hit the market with a varied and high-quality product," he said.