Internet Protocol TV India 2007, the second international conference and exhibition, was organised by Bharat Exhibitions in the capital on April 27. The exhibition attempts to be an ideal platform for key global industry players with a sharp focus on Indian market, in order to examine the range of technology issues, alternatives and challenges facing the industry today, and successful business strategies and solutions for the future.
The inaugural topic of discussion was ‘Strategic issues, opportunities and challenges for the introduction of IPTV rollout in India’. The Chief Guest for the session was AK Sinha, Chairman and Managing Director, BSNL. The keynote panellists were Ramesh Mamgain, Director-Telecom, Sun Microsystems; TV Sriram, VP-Technology, Bharti Airtel; Sunil Kumar Gupta, Advisory Converged Networks, TRAI; AK Bhatnagar, Chief Engineer-R&D, Prasar Bharti Corporation; Abhijit Saxena, CEO, Digital Media Convergence Ltd, Zee Networks; and Dr DPS Seth, Former Member, TRAI, and Vice Chairman, IPTV India Forum.
The session begun with Mamgain speaking on the challenges of IPTV. He said, “The challenges for content providers are manifold. These include there is a lack of content aggregators, a stranglehold of cable TV provider, licensing and legal issues, the price of set-top boxes, and the readiness of home network. There are some challenges for service providers and the question is whether they geared to deliver multiplay services. The legacy network needs to be upgraded. Also, getting the IPTV signal to the room is not an easy task and the technical staff of calls centres need to be trained about IPTV.”
Mamgain added that there is a need for a business model in which service providers of IPTV can make money. “Video rights are expensive as they have competition from cable service providers and neighbourhood video shops. Broadcast TV will get free in the near future,” he explained. He said that subscription revenue, advertising revenue, online voting, gaming, TV commerce and TV learning are sources of revenue for this industry.
Speaking on the need for IPTV, Sinha said, “IPTV enables subscribers to watch what they want. It’s a two-way communication between the subscriber and the service provider; it will provide gaming, home-shopping and much more on IPTV.”
Sinha added that BSNL is providing multi-service broadband access network in order to be able to offer triple-play services — voice, video and Internet services — to BSNL customers. The subscribers are able to get all three, along with video-on-demand on a single telephone line. A triple play service catapults BSNL to offer many high-end value-added services like basic Internet access service with speed ranging from 256 kbps to 16 mbps. It is offering TV over IP Service, which BSNL has launched in Pune through franchise model. BSNL has plans to launch IPTV in Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai and Calcutta by end of this year.
Sriram said, “Bharti Airtel will be launching its first full-fledged IPTV service by the end of 2007. Airtel IPTV applications would be first launched on the broadband fixed line telecom services at Gurgaon in Haryana. For this, the company is already conducting trials in around 100 households in Gurgaon. This would be followed by launch in the entire National Capital Region by the end of the current financial year. Bharti is working on content creation in three areas, including education and learning, entertainment and work, and operation-related issues.”
Sriram also said that the company is working with several partners to generate the right kind of content for customers. IPTV is a technology that transmits digital television content on Internet protocol using a network infrastructure. Two public sector telecom companies, MTNL and BSNL, have already started IPTV delivery in the country using a broadband connection.
“The challenges in launching IPTV is that content is totally a different business for the telecom sector, and there needs to be content management and security; end-to-end service delivery needs to have a regulatory environment; robust framework to ensure a level-playing field and the quality of service needs to be very good,” added Sriram.
Gupta spoke on the reasons why the penetration of IPTV is limited. He said, “This is because of the unavailability of a proper pipe. There are 2.2 million subscribers for IPTV. The speed is not enough for it. The only way to bundle revenue is by providing value-added services.”
Bhatnagar said, “IPTV has some regulatory issues that need to be addressed, like interconnection, quality of services and tariff.”
According to Saxena, “We are looking at what kind of content would sell at IPTV, what consumers will demand. We are creating that kind of content for IPTV where consumers can re-edit the content with a provided software. Interactivity is the big game.”
Seth expressed that IPTV should have a good future, and that the content should be a win-win situation for content providers.
Regarding regulatory issues, Seth said, “IPTV is a multicast technology. It is a two-way connection. It shouldn’t be regarded as broadcasting and shouldn’t come under broadcasting laws. The other important issue is that of privacy. Whatever a consumer is watching, other networks shouldn’t have access to it.”
In 2011, the Asia Pacific market is expected to have 39 million IPTV subscribers. Total IPTV revenue in the region is expected to reach US$ 8.1 billion by 2011. The commercial rollout of IPTV services in India by several leading telecom operators is expected to take place in 2007, and India could be a high growth market by 2009. Telecom companies in India are constantly upgrading their networks to offer IPTV in order to retain customers and develop new revenue streams. Leading global players are aggressively eyeing the booming Indian market for delivering the triple play of voice, video and data services in an integrated wireless context.