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IPTV struggles for foothold in India, seen subdued

IPTV struggles for foothold in India, seen subdued
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First Published: Fri, Jun 12 2009. 03 52 PM IST
Updated: Fri, Jun 12 2009. 03 52 PM IST
Mumbai: “Internet Protocol Television (IPTV), touted as the next big thing after the Internet, is unlikely to take off in India for at least two years, as it battles existing modes of entertainment, low awareness, and poor quality issues,” industry players said.
Launched with great expectations in 2006, IPTV has gained a subscriber base of over 13,000 in India, compared with 10.9 million users of digital pay TV, mainly direct-to-home, or DTH TV, according to Frost & Sullivan.
“Indian IPTV deployment has experienced a slow start and it’s becoming increasingly clear that IPTV services over the next five years will struggle to gain any real momentum,” said Kamlesh Bhatia, principal research analyst with Gartner.
IPTV is also struggling because of the slow penetration of broadband internet, needed for delivering good quality IPTV content, which stands at a mere 6.28 million subscribers, according to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).
“The dismal broadband penetration, the pervasive pay TV market, and low awareness on IPTV are the key barriers for the uptake of IPTV in the short term,” said Manish Dixit, analyst, ICT Practice at Frost & Sullivan.
The presence of telecom majors Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications, along with state-run MTNL and Bharat Sanchar Nigam, hasn’t helped much.
“Bharti and Reliance also provide DTH services, which they are promoting aggressively, as viewers embrace this system faster,” analysts said.
“While many of the carriers talk about IPTV or order small amounts of IPTV equipment, their real focus is on direct-to-home satellite services,” Gartner’s Bhatia said.
“Moreover, they don’t have the requisite fixed connections needed to deliver IPTV content to a viewer,” they added.
The growing number of wireless connections are also hurting the growth of IPTV, which requires a fixed line broadband connection to work effectively.
However, content aggregators Aksh Optifibre and IOL Netcom, which distribute content through service providers such as MTNL and BSNL, are optimistic of grabbing eyeballs by targetting broadband users in metros and launching services in smaller cities in a phased manner.
A new player, MyWay TV, too entered the fray this year.
“We have bet a lot of money on this. We are absolutely sure that this is the way the entire world is going to move, sooner rather than later,” said Siddhartha Srivastava, president and chief executive officer of IOL Netcom.
However, Srivastava does accept that the limited broadband connectivity in the country is a problem.
He said: “Broadband connectivity continues to be the challenge, whoever is able to work on that challenge will be successful.”
Quality issues also continue to dog IPTV. It has not been able to match the consistent high-quality service that a DTH viewer has become used to, according to industry players.
Content differentiation is another issue, with DTH being able to provide several of the features, if partly, which IPTV claims as its USP, such as time-shift, where a viewer can view live television at a time of her convenience.
“Unless IPTV starts to generate enough business volumes, securing exclusive content could be an issue,” experts said.
“Nobody is convinced about the power of IPTV. Ultimately any business is a power of an idea,” said Ashok Mansukhani, president of MSO Alliance. He said: “Otherwise it has great possibility. It is just not happening”.
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First Published: Fri, Jun 12 2009. 03 52 PM IST