It’s a boost for television over broadband in India. The Cabinet has given its green signal to Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) norms. This will allow broadcasters to share their content with IPTV providers. There is a scramble by several players now to launch the service in India and wrest the first mover advantage. Already, Aksh Optifibre, in association with BSNL, has launched its service, iControl, in Jaipur and is looking to scale up operations aggressively.
There are several other players in the fray, prominent among them being Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications. “We welcome the policy approval. IPTV remains a strong part of Bharti Airtel’s focus on converged media solutions and we will be launching the service this year,” says Atul Bindal, President, Airtel Telemedia Services.
IPTV does have a distinct advantage over DTH and cable operators. It can provide viewers with true interactivity in terms of videoon-demand (VOD). For instance, viewers can choose to watch any movie available in the library of the service provider. Not just that, this service also makes it possible for viewers to watch television programmes whenever they want, as the server stores data, allowing them to “play and pause” all content. What’s more, to access IPTV services, consumers require only a TV set and a set-top box.
However, the biggest hitch to this service is the poor quality of, and low, broadband penetration in the country. As of now, there are 11 million internet users in India and players will, willy-nilly, have to offer services at rates comparable to cable operators and direct-to-home (DTH) providers. “My sense is that IPTV will have a limited play for sometime and cannot really spread the way cable or DTH have in the country.
There are also huge investment costs that are required, given the poor quality of broadband connections in the country today,” says Sanjiv Kainth, Country Manager, Irdeto, a leading security and digital solutions provider. Analysts predict that there will be only 75,000 users of IPTV in the country by 2011. It might be some time, then, before the concept catches on in India.