IPTV in India

IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) delivers television programming to households via a broadband connection using Internet protocols. It is in digital format, hence all analog TVs require a IPTV set-top box. IPTV is typically bundled with other services like Video on Demand (VOD), voice over IP (VOIP) or digital phone, and Web access, collectively referred to as Triple Play.

Triple Play’ implies high-speed Internet, television (Video on Demand and regular broadcasts) and telephone service over a single broadband connection. With wirless, it’s called ‘Quadruple Play’ and grouped services (triple and quadruple) are called multi-play.

Cable TV is a one-way communication. IPTV provides for a two-way communication. You request a program from the TV guide and the program is delivered to you.

Over 50 per cent of country’s telephony infrastructure is ready for IPTV. BSNL/MTNL, Reliance Infocomm, Bharti Airtel and VSNL will venture into IPTV in India in a big way (see IPTV providers in India). Hardware vendors too are looking at IPTV in a big way as it can be a big revenue stream for them. One of the applications of IPTV that could catch on is ‘video conferencing’. Currently many SMBs have to go to Reliance Webworld type places to be part of video conferencing. Polycom, a leading equipment provider, has conducted trial runs with BSNL, Reliance Communications, Airtel, Sify, Tulip and Aircel. Polycom is also talking to several operators to bundle its video conferencing solutions and PVX video conferencing software on IPTV platforms.

While it sounds interesting there are hurdles for IPTV to take off. IPTV requires 33% more bandwidth than radio frequency (currently used by cable networks). IPTV completely depends on broadband. The last mile factor plays a big role in the success of IPTV. As of April 2007 India had 2.43 million broadband subscribers, by April 2008 it is expected to rise to 4.21 million. India has around 65 million cable and satellite homes. If even 10 per cent take IPTV then 6.5 million IPTV subscriber base is not a small one.

The setup box will cost approximately Rs 3000-4000. MTNL is offering attractive installment schemes to purchase
the setup box. BSNL Bangalore charges,

  • Installation (non-refundable) Rs 889
  • Set-top box Rs 3,950
  • IPTV service charges Rs 150 per month
  • Video on demand Rs 10 for normal films Rs 25 for semi-premium films Rs 80 for premium films up to Rs 150 for Hollywood films

I still believe the prices have to be a lot more attractive for IPTV to be successful in India. Are Indian homes equipped for IPTV connections? Not sure. The reason I say this is we need a good network at home because the TV is used in the living room, the telephone is used in your room, the PC may really not be in the living room.

Telcos argue that IPTV will take off in a big way as the customers will be happy to deal with just one company for all their communication and entertainment needs. You will repeatedly hear the phrase “will get a single bill for all three services”. One may argue that depending on just one provider may not be a very smart thing. The service has frankly improved. I rarely face any downtime from these providers at home. DTH is bound to face some competition from IPTV and customers will benefit from this competition (in terms of price and service).

In India IPTV is still in its infancy. I have been reading about it from early 2006 and it is just recently
BSNL/MTNL has rolled out IPTV. Overall internet penetration is on the rise –

All telcos are pumping in all sorts of hormones for the fast growth of internet in India – life is good.

Comments

  1. Lt Col (Retd) VC Khare says:

    It is incorrect to connot that Cable TV is a one way network. In India, Cable Networks have been erected to re-transmit broadcast television from satellite, terrestrial and playout modes to viewers who are not quality conscious. Conformity to standards, provided in the Cable TV Networks Regulation Act 1995, has not been enforced. In fact this statute suffers from lack of political, and therefore bureaucratic, will to enforce the legislated statute. Now recommendations on IPTV have been forwarded by TRAI to I&B Ministry tilted infavour of ADSL based delivery by incumbant BSNL and MTNL over their UTP copper. For other Basic Services licensees, with UASL, the nioghtmare will be right of way and building up CAT5e drops from IDF to subscriber. Cable operators will oppose it tooth and nail. Trials have proved that VOD delivery on weekends when each house may demand two movies will cause serious choking. Un-organized Cable TV Services have only to become interactive to defeat Telco initiatives, because Cable plants can handle much higher bandwidth.

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