Indian companies are planning to launch the desi version of the integrated receiver/decoders or set-top boxes. Presently the set-top boxes are imported from Hong Kong and Taiwan and cost as much as Rs 17,000-20,000. Companies like Videocon and Himachal Futuristic are now close to launching their own set-top boxes at an unbeatable price range of less than Rs 10,000 a piece.
Reliance is also working with R&D companies to develop set-top boxes—priced below Rs 10,000—which will be offered to customers using the company’s fibre optic backbone. Earlier Spectranet, the country’s first fibre optic backbone service in Delhi, had subsidised the cost and offered set-top boxes at around Rs 12,500 to customers.
The major reason for companies going for cheaper set-top boxes is to make it affordable, which will directly help in increasing the Internet penetration and provide value-added service on the television in the country.
India has around 70 million television homes, it has merely 30 million phone connections and barely two million Internet subscribers. The media and telecom companies feel that a large part of the television homes can be converted into Internet and telephone-using homes. This is what the market fibre optic backbone players are hoping to tap. Videocon has already signed a MoU with the Bharti group to supply set top boxes to the latter’s subscribers, once its broadband network is functional.
Videocon will start manufacturing 1,00,000 set-top boxes from January 2002 at Rs 9,000 a piece. Another one lakh decoders will be manufactured to be fitted in colour televisions. The company is already manufacturing 9,000 Internet TVs with in-built decoders every month.