NXT Digital identifies infra sharing as key pillar of growth

NXT Digital CEO Vynsley Fernandes shared that they have onboarded three independent MSOs who will use the company's HITS platforms to serive their cable TV customers

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: Nov 24, 2020 10:22 AM
nxt digital

Hinduja Group-promoted cable, headend-in-the-sky (HITS) and broadband service provider NXT Digital has identified infrastructure sharing also called managed services, digital boutique and satellite media services as three big areas of growth.

NXT Digital CEO Vynsley Fernandes said that the implementation of new tariff order (NTO) has paved the way for infrastructure sharing between cable TV companies and HITS service providers.

The NTO has brought in transparency in pricing, which has encouraged multi-system operators (MSOs) to partner with NXT Digital’s HITS platform. Earlier, MSOs were wary of infrastructure sharing due to lack of transparency.

NXT Digital, which is the only HITS service provider in the country, has onboarded three independent MSOs who will use the company’s HITS platform to service their cable TV customers. NXT Digital’s infra sharing service allows MSOs to provide services using their existing infrastructure.

The ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) had recently amended the HITS guidelines by allowing sharing of infrastructure by HITS operators with MSOs.

“Earlier competitors were scared to work with one another because there was a lack of transparency. But now thanks to NTO 1.0, there is complete transparency in pricing. There are complete parity and level playing field. So, our own competitors are happy to ride on our platform to continue providing services to their customers,” Fernandes told exchange4Media.com in an interaction.

He added that MSOs across the country are looking to reduce their operating expenses and stay relevant in the new digital era. Or they are looking to exit the business due to increased regulatory compliance.

“Prior to NTO 1.0, the biggest cost was content. Now that content cost has become a pass-through the biggest cost is connectivity. They can reduce that cost by riding on NXT Digital HITS platform,” he noted.

Infrastructure sharing, Fernandes said, is a huge opportunity. He pointed out that 69 million cable TV customers are serviced by independent and regional MSOs who don’t have the same financial wherewithal as the national MSOs like Hathway, DEN, Siti or NXT Digital.

To bring home the point, he cited the examples of Cyclone Nisarga in Maharashtra which caused huge damage in the coastal areas of the state. The MSOs also bore the brunt of the cyclone which destroyed cable TV infrastructure.

“There are MSOs in Konkan who have still not been able to restore connectivity after being hit by the cyclone. They are saying that rather than laying fibre again and creating a redundant path we can ride on your NXT Digital service. We can also offer the same service to our competitors,” he noted.

According to Fernandes, some of the benefits of partnering with NXT Digital’s HITS platform is that the MSO does not have to worry about fibre connectivity to market, investing in ground connection, and technology quality.

The second big area of growth identified by the company is a digital boutique. The company has envisaged utilising its last-mile reach to offer multiple services to its customers. Some of the services that the company is planning to offer are home surveillance and telemedicine.

“We are very clear that our captive reach via cable TV, HITS, broadband and overall Hinduja Group companies we can reach 50 million touchpoints. Our idea is to offer integrated solutions not just to our own subscribers but even to other subscribers. It could include services like home surveillance, telemedicine,” he asserted.

For this, the company is focussing on semi-urban and rural areas. “We have a strong presence there by virtue of going by satellite because satellite works best where connectivity is a challenge.”

The challenge, he said, is how to make LCOs become dealers and distributors of products other than media. Fernandes gave the example of a hyper-local app being developed by one of its LCO partners to connect local grocers with their last-mile customers.

“There is an app called mSaathi. This app has been tested and is ready to be rolled out. The app, which is owned by a cable operator, helps him connect local merchants to his subscriber base. This is e-commerce at a local level,” he revealed.

He added that LCOs can also be dealers of Hinduja Group products. The conglomerate has a presence across multiple sectors including financial services, tyre and lubricants. NXT Digital’s LCO partners and their employees are a 30,000 strong workforce on the ground.

The company also sees huge opportunity in bundling broadband with cable/HITS services. As on 3rd September, NXT Digital had a cable/HITS subscriber base of 5.38 million of which 400,800 consumers also subscribed its broadband service.

“Cross-selling opportunity is huge considering the difference in our cable TV/HITS and broadband subscriber base,” Fernandes stated.

NXT Digital’s third big area of opportunity is leveraging technology in satellite media. Fernandes believes that India is ripe for satellite broadband due to latent demand for broadband service outside cities.

“We are leveraging our satellite technology and our capabilities through broadband satellite to look at the content delivery network (CDN) on the satellite and eventually doing low-cost OTT over satellite,” he averred.

To do a broadband satellite, one needs three or four things. First is an earth station. The second is satellite broadcasting. The third is points of presence across the country and fourth is infrastructure for redistribution of broadband. “We tick all the boxes,” Fernandes declared.

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