In a major expansion overdrive, WorldSpace satellite radio is going to launch its services in 10 more cities in India in March. At present, the service is available in 10 cities, including Kolkata, where it launched its operations last week.
The cities where it is starting its operations are Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jaipur, Baroda, Goa, Coimbatore, Madurai, Visakhapatnam, Vijayawada and Nagpur.
Speaking to exchange4media, newly appointed Managing Director of Worldspace India, Shishir Lall, said, “India is the single largest market for Worldspace. When the company launched its IPO, it declared that over 50 per cent of its money from the IPO would be invested in India. So, we are very bullish about India.”
When asked what was the greatest challenge Worldspace was facing in India, Lall said, “Satellite radio is a new concept in India. Many people don’t know about the concept and about Worldspace. So, it’s a major communication challenge.”
At present, the Worldspace receiver cannot be fitted into a vehicle. Many people see it as a major constraint to the growth of satellite radio in India. When asked about it, Lall said, “It’s not a problem with the technology. It’s a regulatory problem. At present, we are allowed only to transmit through extra-terrestrial mode and not on terrestrial mode. When government gives us the permission, we will roll it out in India.”
There is no policy framework for satellite radio in India at present. TRAI in its recommendations has asked the government to evolve a common uplinking and downlinking policy for both television and radio, including satellite radio, taking into account all aspects, including security.
It has also recommended making AIR programme code and advertisement code applicable to satellite radio. When asked whether satellite radio should be regulated on the lines of private FM radio, Lall said, “It is up to the government to frame the policy. We will abide by that.”
Replying on how he felt about the major FM Radio expansion being carried out in the country, Lall said, “It is good for the growth of radio listenership. As people get into the habit of listening to radio more and more, they will also be ready to pay for it.”
Worldspace currently charges Rs 1,825 as subsciption fee for one year, which comes to just Rs 5 per day.
Lall, however, does not see FM Radio as a competition to Worldspace. “On FM radio, maximum time what you get to listen are either the advertisements or the RJs. We provide non-stop quality programming, which one can’t find on FM.”
Talking about competition, Lall said, “We don’t foresee any competition in India. The only two other companies globally in the field of satellite radio are XM and Sirius. Both of them are facing big financial troubles, so I don’t see them coming to India,” he maintained.