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Pacific Century holds TV and broadband plans for ‘now’

25-December-2000
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Pacific Century holds TV and broadband plans for ‘now’

Instead, the company will concentrate on its Internet access business and portal Now-India. com . In August this year, the company’s Indian subsidiary Pacific Convergence Corporation had announced that it will launch its first full convergence platform in Asia within a month, combining streaming of video, sound and the internet. This will happen through Now.com, backed by its cable television channel NOW TV. In September, PCC launched NOW TV in Delhi and Mumbai as a brand building strategy for its broadband portal. However, it has been forced to change track midway as the broadband infrastructure has taken time to materialise. This, despite several large players announcing their plans to invest billions of dollars in creating broadband infrastructure in India. According to Data Access managing director, Siddhartha Ray, “Broadband infrastructure will take some time to build up in the country, and television or Now.com will not be a priority till that happens.” Ray added, “We will instead focus on our dial-up internet access business and narrow band portal Now-India.com, which is not critically dependent on broadband infrastructure, unlike Now.com.” Data Access is a 51:49 joint venture between PCCW’s Indian subsidiary PCC and Delhi-based SPA Enterprises. Data Access is PCC’s primary vehicle for entering the Indian convergence market. Once this infrastructure kicks in, India is expected to have broadband capacity rivalling that of China’s, say industry experts. For the present, however, the lack of capacity has meant that webcast of high quality digital content is not likely to be a high quality experience for consumers. Investments of the order of $100m will be channeled over the next three years into building up the company’s dial-up internet access business and India-specific portal Now-India.com. The company is expanding its ISP network to Mumbai, Chennai and Bangalore, and is looking at a subscriber base of 5,00,000 in two years. It has already launched NOW ISP in Delhi and has garnered a subscriber base of 50,000. In the first three years, revenues will come only from the ISP business, which is a dial-up service on narrow band. International connectivity being a constraint, each network centre will be backed by a captive international gateway of 48 mbps capacity each. The ISP offers dial-up services at Rs 10 per hour and a one-time Rs 199 activation charge. Broadband access, which means 24-hour connectivity and zero telephone bill, will cost much higher — Rs 200 per hour and Rs 4,999 activation charges. According to Mr Ray, there is no market yet for these kind of rates. Even as broadband infrastructure providers are having second thoughts on their investment plans in the wake of falling access rates, the current lack of broadband infrastructure is telling on the potential users of this capacity.

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