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A JV between Prasar Bharati and private sector players in the offing?

With viewership shifting to mobile and OTT platforms, the government is looking to create a policy framework for building a broadcast stack that will enable the transmission of channels and video content directly to mobile phones using terrestrial TV towers.

According to sources, one of the options being considered to manage and operate the proposed network is by forming a joint venture between Prasar Bharati and private sector players, including telecom operators, OTT platforms and content developers. Once this stack is set up, all government and public service channels that are currently available on Doordarshan’s TV channels, for example, will be available on mobile phones.

“There is also discussion on auctioning out channels on this broadcast stack to private sector players so even platforms such as Netflix can use this route instead of the OTT platform,” said a top source.

Two benefits
The proposed network will have two benefits. First, it will free up broadband spectrum for mission-critical applications. Currently, more than 80 per cent of broadband capacity is being utilised by video streaming services. Secondly, it will give a new lease of life for Prasar Bharti’s terrestrial network of TV towers which is underutilised with only Doordarshan channels.

Sources added that Prasar Bharati has completed a proof-of-concept field trial in collaboration with IIT Kanpur, and a report compiling the findings of the field trial and the potential business case for ‘Direct to Mobile ‘ (D2M) services has been submitted.

The primary motive of developing a D2M broadcasting platform is in the “delivery of broadcast content of public and national importance directly to mobile phones, smartphones and other new generation devices,” as per documents seen by businessline. Therefore, the Centre seeks to “ensure strategic independence to the Indian republic,” for state-owned broadcast.

Open broadcast stack
However, the government is also envisaging creating an open broadcast stack on the lines of the UPI stack which will allow for the growth of content ecosystems to deploy and distribute local video and OTT content without significant investments. A viable D2M ecosystem will also ensure independence from cellular networks during disasters and crises to “cater to emergency needs in public or national interests,” as per sources..

“The government is likely leaning towards a public-private partnership to develop this D2M stack. The suggested guiding principles to develop this technology include an industry-led consortium, where the Centre plans to invite cross-industry partnerships from telecom networks, academia and startups. Prasar Bharati will, however, have the overall accountability for the whole operation,” sources said.

Spectral frequencies between 526-582 MHz will be likely allocated for the D2M services. The service is likely to be made available in 19 cities initially. The Hindu BusinessLine

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