India’s IPTV Unreality

39 Comments

via Maciej Dakowicz Flickr Photo Stream A 256 kbps broadband connection can cost upto $40 a month. There are only 1.7 million broadband users, and yet most Indian telecom operators are dreaming about an IPTV future. Talk about Unreality TV!
India’s state owned telecom operators BSNL and MTNL have been making a lot of noise lately about the roll out of IPTV services. Both have recently signed franchisee agreements for content delivery services. Private players like Reliance and Bharti Telecom have also jumped on the IPTV bandwagon. All of them say they will be offering IPTV commercially by the end of this year or early next year.

There is a sense of panic because fixed line connections are declining, and services like IPTV are being seen as potentially huge revenue generators. News articles — no doubt channeling executives from these companies — talk about several hundred Bollywood and Hollywood movies expected to be made available on-demand. Not so fast!

India has a measly 1.7 million broadband connections, just about half of what the government envisaged, because broadband prices are still too high. You can get what operators here call a broadband connection (128kpbs–snort!) for $5-$6 a month. Though cheap enough, that amount only covers data transfers of 200-250 megabytes, and you have to pay by the megabyte if you run over. Unlimited broadband at 256 kbps can run as high as $40 for home users and even higher for businesses.

For IPTV to really work, bandwidth prices have to come down so broadband can grow, says Jude Pinto, co-founder of research firm indiabandwidth.com. IPTV providers also have to contend with a highly fragmented cable television segment that has a much broader reach than its telecom firms — India has thousands of small cable operators, reaching more than 60 million households.

Then there is the issue of content. As indiabandwidth’s Pinto says, “If a BSNL deputy general manager is going to decide what IPTV will offer, you can just imagine.” (You can see what he means.) The bigger issue though is that the content industry is hugely fragmented. And forget the hundreds of Bollywood movies that IPTV players are talking about.

Even big Bollywood players don’t quite get things like making movies available on new platforms, licensing issues, etc. “I’ve met people in Bollywood who say, ‘Do what you want but I need four crores (about $1 million) in cash, now,’ ” says Sridhar Pai, an analyst at Tonse Telecom. No surprise there. These are the guys who used to, or still do, stash money in false ceilings and mattresses.

Reliance, for one, has already started buying content developers. Pai is quite bullish about Reliance’s IPTV prospects. “They are very conscious about price points and they have been working quite hard at it (with Microsoft and Cisco),” he says, adding that with the company’s push into retailing, the opportunities IPTV could offer — like grocery shopping using your IPTV remote — are limitless.

And yes, if this does work, it’s all about being able to get your preferred content when you want it. That could be really attractive to the urban, traveling set. Three-day weekend coming up? You can get all the episodes of the soap Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi (Because a Mother-in-law was also once a Daughter-in-law) for a marathon viewing session. Imagine the joys — and the agony.

Just like waiting for IPTV in India.

39 Comments

thomas

When content delivery starts, bandwidth of 2mbps will be available always. Mostly at present band with is given in limited way due to the international bandwidth connection problems. Most of the sites are internationally located and there fore choking occurs there. With in india a very high banwidth is available and therefore once content delivery starts(from india) bandwidth will not be an issue.

Mayank

Bsnl unlimited pan comes for Rupees 900 and with a speed of 2mbps(i tweaked it to 2.45 mbps) i get download speeds of 200 kbps on an average. is it bad???

Aditya

128kbps…….256kbps……..512kbps…….1Mbps………2Mbps………………..and now 10Mbps………..its like we have to wait for 2047(100 yrs of independence…….joking)

VJ

I think IPTV is a complete waste of broadband capability. I mean we are really not using broadband fully here… When DTH can do the job very well, why clog the internet with all Video Data ?… I am not sure if idea of IPTV is correct.

I have experienced IPTV at 2 MBps. It has a long way to go. I think to get IPTV properly you need something like 10 Mbps.

Amish

People are missing a point.

You dont have to get 2Mbps line OR separate broadband account for IPTV.

2Mbps speed is required only from local telephone exchange to your home which is already setup, it would be similar to LAN (peer-to-peer). You dont need 2Mbps internet speed for that nor you would be able to surf internet using IPTV account. The IPTV account will not be based on data transfer (MB) obviously.

So its possible, why talk about bandwidth availability for IPTV?

Darel Hayes

IPTV is not the same as multicasting on the internet. You can go to any websites like midiahopper.com, channelchooser.com,and wwitv.com and watch various channels on your PC itself, whereas IPTV like Tivo etc, requires a sub to buy an STB and can view content on TV like DTH or CAS.

With large scale production of Fiber Optic Cables in India, high speed FFTN and FTTH are already in place in major cities like Delhi,Kolkata,Mumbay and Chenni. Broadband is not yet a low cost reality on them, because these companies are over smart and want to milk the most out of us, and get max returns in the short term. No one in their right mind will download a movie even if for free, and Pay Rs 1500 for it( assuming movie is 1.5 Gb to the ISP, when you can go out and buy same on DVD for Rs 400 max. That is why broadband has not taken of in a big way in India. There was some noise made by BSNL a while back abut Telescopic charges like in Indian Railways, which would have been a geat idea. So only way to get more subs is to entice them with fancy sounding names like IPTV.
MTNL’s IPTV may well be like DD DTH, a basic service, whose only, (yet most noble) purpose would be to act as a starter for the new industry, a guide for other private players to follow or learn from.

Manav

I think people are missing the point. It works differently in India – we don’t build infrastructure first – we build things than we go thru the agony and slowly infrastructure builds up. Look what happened to Mobile, Auto and Airline industry. Mobile companies came without debating about cost. I remember paying Rs 16.80 per min in 1998 for incoming & outgoing calls. In 10 years time I’m paying Rs 0.75 per min on my RIM connection. Auto companies came and started rolling out cars without debating about not having quality roads. We’ve started to see improvements of road infrastructure. It is long way to go but happening. Than low cost & other airlines started flying without debating about traffic congestion, small airports etc – now we’re seeing airport upgradation and newer airports coming in Hyderabad and Bangalore. I think the push for IPTV is going to drive down the cost as companies will invest in the infrastructure.

Ravi Kamdar

Who told you that we pay $40 for 256 kbps connection? Its very cheaper than that. I know it is going to take some time to be successful in IPTV in India. But once you start, than and than only you get content providers. Than only you will get more users.

Naveen Lakamsany

proof for all this, games on demand unlimited launched by airtel for 199rs and by bsnl and tata bb.

Naveen Lakamsany

To all of you, who do not have much information regarding broadband in India; here’s something you can chear about.
Firstly, The broadband networks airtel, bsnl/mtnl,reliance all have networks of 100mpbs ethernet networks. at present bsnl can speed upto 25Mpbs, airtel upto 512kpbs and dont no abot reliance corporatec onnections.
airtel, bsnl and reliance are switching to gigabit netwroks where the lan connection varies upto some gigibits and ipln networks where in a small bandwidth more and more data can be pumped in and out. all these networks have already tested their networks for iptv.
shailaja, regarding the broadband prices, i think it is due to the ceiling prices by goverment and vsnl onthe broadband prices. the home users are soon going to get 256kpbs connection for a mere 11$ and 128 for 5$ with tata indicom broadband launching those decreased prices and you know that when one player launches plans like that others too will follow the same way. reliance may be giving 1mpbs at 12-20$ a month soon. lets wait nd watch the high drama that’s goijng to take place in India.

profffor all this, games on demand unlimited launched by airtel for 199rs and by bsnl and tata bb.

Naveen Lakamsany

To all of you, who do not have much information regarding broadband in India; here’s something you can chear about.
Firstly, The broadband networks airtel, bsnl/mtnl,reliance all have networks of 100mpbs ethernet networks. at present bsnl can speed upto 25Mpbs, airtel upto 512kpbs and dont no abot reliance corporatec onnections.
airtel, bsnl and reliance are switching to gigabit netwroks where the lan connection varies upto some gigibits and ipln networks where in a small bandwidth more and more data can be pumped in and out. all these networks have already tested their networks for iptv.
shailaja, regarding the broadband prices, i think it is due to the ceiling prices by goverment and vsnl onthe broadband prices. the home users are soon going to get 256kpbs connection for a mere 11$ and 128 for 5$ with tata indicom broadband launching those decreased prices and you know that when one player launches plans like that others too will follow the same way. reliance may be giving 1mpbs at 12-20$ a month soon. lets wait nd watch the high drama that’s goijng to take place in India.

Rohit

Wait a sec!!! I don’t think we should even be debating the price right now. Cause the first thing we should debate is why is not 5mbps connection available for about a Rs1000.Unless until that happens forget about IPTV. In fact few who will take up broadband will have a bad experience at 256kbps and move away from broadband.
I think there is still a long way to go before we start talking about broadband. At 256kbps or even 500 it’s just not worth it.

ananda

people, read carefully before talking about broadband prices! jees

dotcompals

Here(in India) we pay Just Rupees 250 (US$6) for a 256 kbps net connection with a download limit.
Unlimited usages costs only Rupees 900 (US $20) per month. Not US$40 / month as stated.

ARVIND

IPTV HMMM…

WELL LOOKS COULD BE DESEPTIVE, ONE MIGHT BE ABLE TO LAUNCH THESE SERVICES TO GAIN MARKET SHARE AND TO RETAIN THERE SHARE SUCH SERVICES CAN HELP.

LOOKING FROM A CUSTOMER PROSPECTIVE IF ONE IS ABLE TO GET BEST PACKAGE OF PHONE, INTERNET AND TV FOR ABOUT A PRICE RANGE OF 1500-2000 RUPEES IT MIGHT JUST SEE SIMLLAR GROWTH AS MOBILE PHONES HERE IN INDIA.

AT PRESENT ONE WOULD PAY FOR CABLE TV, PHONE AND INTERNET ABOUT 1000-1200RS/-
SO TO BEET THAT I BELIVE ITS GOING TO HARD.

MOREOVER THE TV SETS IN INDIA DONT HAVE IN BUILT SET TOP BOXES WHICH MEAN BUYING THESE SET TOP BOXES WHICH WOULD COST ANOTHER 2000-3000RS/- AND IMAGIN THOSE HOUSE HOLDS WITH TWO TV SETS. I GUESS ONE WOULD REALLY THINK BEFORE TAKING UP THESE NEW TECHNOLIGIES.

I HAVE NO DOUBT THAT THESE SERVICE WOULD OFFER BETTER QUALITY BUT THIS QUALITY WOULD HAVE TO BE COMBINED WITH A VERY COMPETITIVE PRICE AND YES DTH SERVICE WOULD ALSO LIKE TO CHIP IN BY REDUCING THERE PRICING AND ALSO MIGHT BE THE BIGGEST GAINER IN THIS GAME ON TV.

na

Broadband (anyone in europe,america,east asia, would u call a 256k line broadband?) much worser like described here.They have the infrastructure i belive,but they dont want to give it (best eg.VSNL).
and even if they give it they give it with stupid limits.Did you guys know that this unlimited thing was introduced by bsnl only a few months ago.before that only 256k 1gb transfer limit plan existed for rs500.
IPTV is certainly possible as ADSL2+ has more than enough bandwidth for that.but before that we need some more speed,it took ages for me to download vista beta 2 (ms started giving dvd’s only just recently).
and latency is horrible.Its impossible to play fps outside indian servers(which are countable by fingers).
sorry for the rant,but couldnt resist,its frustrating here. :(

Tarry Singh

I think India has a long way to go. Blowing horns this soon is indeed going to fail.
Ask these questions:

Do they have the required infrastructure?
Do they UNDERSTAND what it takes to build that kind of infrastructure?
Security*?

In Holland I pay 27$ for 10240(up) / 1024(down) Kbps. Not that I am comparing anythnig here. IPTV is a challenge here as well. Streaming content rich media is a huge challenge. Unless they start building those WiMAX towers all over the place to adopt the new wireless technology and not worry about wired stuff. And hope that all that won’t be vandalised/snitched.

We are moving gradually over to VoIP. IPTV or whatever is going to need a lot more robust infrastructure.

Manish

vijay: If BSNL does offer 1 Mbps at Rs 3000, then its too high. Costs in Europe (where I live) have just started coming down, to around 20-30 Eur range for 1-2 Mbps connections. And it is NOW that the operators have begun to start thinking and planning of IPTV.

So basically, as Shailaja is (hopefully) trying to point in the post, I think its too early to start thinking of IPTV in India.

First we need widely available higher bandwidth, lower rate broadband connections in India, and let the penetration grow to a critical mass. Or atleast show a healthy upcurve. Then the operators should think of IPTV.

As Sandeep points out, apparently unlimited 512 kbps is not available in Delhi…so forget 2 Mbps and beyond.

First, people around you should start having those kind of broadband connections…and remember..they should have it ‘without’ the need for IPTV…only then would adding IPTV as an additional servive make sense.

Even in developed countries, IPTV is just one additional factor in increasing higher bandwidth broadband connections. It cannot be the sole driver for it, as it seems we are trying to do in India. If people have to pay 3k+ Rs just for connections, then additionally for IPTV packages…I think they’ll stick with cable, however unreliable the services might be, for a while to come.

And as I said, this is true even for developed and richer markets, not just India

Sandeep

You guys aren’t reading carefully. The article says prices “can run as high as $40,” which means that there are cheaper services. The writer also distinguishes between 128 kbps, which is not considered broadband abroad, and 256 kbps.

A quick look at the various unlimited monthly packages for Delhi delivered the following results, though these don’t include items like the difference you have to pay for long distance calls once you switch networks etc.:

MTNL –
Unlimited 128 kpbs – not available
Unlimited 256 kpbs – Rs. 1399 or about $32
Unlimited 512 kpbs – not available

Airtel –
Unlimited 128 kpbs – Rs 699 or about $15
Unlimited 256 kpbs – Rs 999 or about $23
Unlimited 512 kpbs – not available

Tata –
Unlimited 128 kpbs – Rs. 900 or about $20
Unlimited 256 kbps – Rs. 1600 or about $36
Unlimited 512 kbps – not available

My guess is $36 was rounded up to $40…

Prasad

The cost of acquiring a broadband connection in India is not as high as the authot has pointed out. Maybe the author needs to do a little bit more accurate homework before publishing the article? Whilst the debate on low penetration of broadband becoming a hindrance for IPTV will rage on for some time, my personal opinion is that the penetration could jump from 1.5 million to 10 million in just a few months given the fact that almost 13-14 million PCs are being sold on a quarterly basis in India. Add to this a burgeoning middle class with disposable incomes and the script for broadband players couldn’t have looked better. If one get to see unheard of rapid depolyment and expansion of broadband and IPTV services, it has to be only in India. 12 months from today, the India consumer will have multiple choices to view his/her favourite content – DTH, IPTV. The focus will then shift to quality of service and pricing, which in my opinion, is the best that the consumer can ask for. Who said India is behind in deployment of state-of-the-art technologies? Forward ho, India.

Sandeep

Shailaja, the Reliance getting into retail is different from the Reliance that is into telecom. And, the way they squabble I don’t see grocery shopping via their IPTV network.

Vijay

Manish, BSNL does offer bandwidth to the extent of 2mbps but thats for corporate users. For home users currently you can get 1mbps for rs.3300. My point was in coming years the rates would go down and the offered bandwidth will get increased for sure.

Manish

One point that many are missing here…its not only about price, but about the bandwidth as well.

From my limited knowledge, IPTV needs bandwidths in excess of 2Mbps per user. Do we even have that kind of offers from BSNL etc in India? And at what price?

Shailaja, from most of my Indian contacts I get to hear that the bandwidths on offer in India are really low. Do you have an idea if there is a technical reason for this (the state of the network?) or just price issues?

Vijay

You can even avail Limited (400mb download+upload limit) BSNL broadband connection for even $6 (Rs.250)

Probably, the introduction should be
“A 256 kbps broadband connection is available from $6 to $40 a month” :)

Also, the 1.7 million broadband user base is because for the increasing broadband penetration for the past 1-2 years in majority of Indian homes. At this rate of growth which is increasing at a good phase, IPTV can really be reality soon.

Who on earth would have thought 10 years before that the Mobile revolution in India would put it in the 2nd place for number of mobile users, but it did happen, in the same trend IPTV is here for a reason.

Sunil

IPTV on 256KBPS broadband ??? Reliance broadband SUCKS! Forget IPTV they will come with Reliance BlueMagic DTH very soon.

IPTV News

You are missing teh big picture here. Actually IPTV itself can act as a catalyst in increasing the broadband penetration. Because, nothing much has been done to attract the non-techie folks to the broadband bandwagon. For non-techie user, broadband doesn’t make sense when all he/she does is checking mails. So IPTV can be a great tool in selling broadplans plans to a layman.
And in my perspective, India makes good case for IPTV due to the “unorganized” nature of the cable business. Ask any Indian and he will tell you how tough it is to deal with “cable-wallah”. So people would be ready to pay a premium in exchange for better service and user experience.

But it takes time to evolve and more importantly a big player to make siginifcant investments. The latter seems to be happening if one were to look at what Reliance is doing. They are sewing together different elements: they bought stake in Adlabs which owns copyrights of many popular Bollywood flicks, they are trialing with some IPTV middlewear vendors.

So I wouldn’t write-off the India IPTV story as of now..

manish jain

the big battle currently is around DTH (direct to home) satellite service. It’s between TataSky and DishTV, thank god for new offerings…the local cable operators are worthless.

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