Entertainment buffs are in for more fun. IPTV or internet protocol TV is finally here. State-owned MTNL is all set to launch IPTV on Saturday, signalling the start of a race for alternate revenue streams for telecom companies.
MTNL, which provides telecom services in Mumbai and Delhi, will become the first operator to roll out IPTV here. MTNL chairman RSP Sinha is scheduled to announce the service from Mumbai, where it will be offered first. IPTV will be rolled out in Delhi later.
IPTV is content delivered on television screens through a broadband internet connection. It is highly flexible and users have the option of choosing from hundreds of TV channels and playing their favourite movie on live TV, even pausing while taking a call.
Analysts say that falling revenues from voice services had prompted MTNL to roll out IPTV. Apart from MTNL, private telecom major Bharti Airtel, is also planning to launch a similar service soon. “Commercial deployment by Bharti is expected soon. It may roll out IPTV by early next month,” sources said.
Reliance Communications is also aggressively building the last mile for such a service. While Bharti has been undertaking trials for IPTV for over five months, Reliance Communications' pilot IPTV project has been on in Jamnagar, Mumbai and Delhi for over a year-and-a-half now.
IPTV could face competition from direct-to-home (DTH) TV and, to some extent, also cable TV. MTNL has not yet finalised the pricing for the offering. However, according to sources, the hardware (set top box) is likely to be priced at around Rs 3,000, while installation charges could be Rs 1,000.
The monthly rentals will be in the range of Rs 180 to Rs 400, depending on the plan a user opts for. “MTNL will ensure that prices are competitive and not more than that for DTH,” company sources told ET. The state-owned telecom company will offer around 50 channels to begin with and will scale it up to 100 later.
The basic package for IPTV will offer 100 chat sessions. MTNL has tied up with IOL Broadband, Aksh and Times Broadband to offer content and delivery platform to MTNL.
MTNL, which already has a base of over 3 lakh broadband subscribers, has been keen to generate revenue from new streams from its costly local loop assets, the sources said. Communications minister Dayanidhi Maran recently said that MTNL and BSNL have been asked to launch IPTV, with Mumbai and Chennai, being the first two cities to start the service.
According a ABI Research, total subscribers for IPTV globally are likely to cross 120m by '10 and Asia Pacific will comprise 47% of it, with India being a major market.