IPTV in India: Are we there yet?

By , agencyfaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | July 25, 2007
For all the hype around Internet Protocol TV, bandwidth issues and the lack of original content mean it's very early days yet

We have

been hearing about IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) for some time now, but has it really made an impact in India, or is it just another medium waiting for its day in the sun?

A Frost and Sullivan report on the Asia Pacific IPTV Market (January 2007), covering 12 markets including Australia, China, Hong Kong and India, indicates that the Asia Pacific IPTV market is set for considerable growth with the number of IPTV subscribers expected to increase from the existing 1,47,000 to 27.4 million by 2013. India and China are expected to be high growth markets for IPTV by 2009.

In India, IPTV is still in a nascent stage although state-owned MTNL and BSNL have launched services in a few cities. MTNL launched its IPTV services commercially in July 2007 in association with Aksh Optifibre in New Delhi. Since late last year, it has been offering triple play (IPTV, phone and Internet) IPTV services in Mumbai in association with IOL. BSNL, which launched its triple play IPTV service in Pune in March 2007, is planning to launch these services in Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore and Hyderabad soon.

Atul Bindal
Private players like Reliance and Bharti Telecom are also gearing up to roll out their services soon. Bharti Telecom started testing its IPTV services in 2006 in 1,000 households in Gurgaon. Atul Bindal, president, Airtel Broadband and Telephone Services, says, "We are looking forward to launching triple play IPTV services by the end of 2007. Bharti is planning to roll out IPTV first in NCR Delhi in a phased manner, and then move to the other top six cities in the country."

Reliance Communications, which has tied up with Microsoft and Cisco for IPTV, is not ready to share its plans. The India Today group is also in talks with operators for IPTV, as reported by agencyfaqs! in an interview with Ashish Bagga, CEO of Living Media India.

Since a lot of IPTV launches are still in the pipeline, it may be a while before we exploit the interactive potential of IPTV - truly the most interactive (or two-way) medium thus far. The biggest advantage IPTV will offer consumers is the ability to integrate television broadcast with other IP-based services like high-speed Internet access and voice-over-Internet - all accessible on the television set. IPTV scores over DTH and CAS on grounds of interactivity and a two-way interface between the subscriber and service provider.

Kailash Choudhary
This includes allowing viewers to order products shown in ads, e-learning, online gaming, booking movie tickets or video calling. Currently, MTNL offers 52 channels, including free to air and paid channels. And then, there's advertising: MTNL does offer a unique feature for advertisers named 'A-Tube', where they can upload full-length campaigns, product AVs and detailed trailers, without the limitation of 10-, 20- or 30-second formats.

However, Prasanth Mohanachandran, executive director, digital services, Neo@Ogilvy, says, "IPTV players are not focusing much on e-commerce or the interactive part of IPTV. They are more focused on the video-on-demand facility as of now."

With the current battle of the airwaves focused on DTH and CAS, the road ahead for IPTV may not be easy - particularly in an Internet infrastructure-starved economy. Kailash Choudhary, chairman of Aksh Broadband Ltd, says, "IPTV has more bandwidth and an edge over DTH facilities like VoIP. IPTV can offer more than 100 movies on demand." He adds that bandwidth availability, broadband penetration and content availability will be the three big challenges for IPTV, and its success depends on the broadband accessibility provided by telecom players like BSNL and MTNL.

However, Bindal of Airtel thinks that both IPTV and DTH will co-exist with each other in the Indian market and "dependency on state-owned MTNL and BSNL will not hamper the deployment of Bharti's IPTV services". Mohanachandran raises other issues. As IPTV is a storage-driven concept (where a subscriber simply pulls the data he wants to see from the central server), this "concept of storage can be a challenge for IPTV players in future", he says. In sum, a legal framework like the Cable Act will also need to be worked out for IPTV services.

IPTV may have the technological edge over other TV formats, even mobile, but as long as there are bandwidth issues, it seems the signal for IPTV will remain fuzzy.

© 2007 agencyfaqs!