Shyamal Ghosh
Chairman Emeritus,
Broadband India Forum  (formally IPTV India Forum)

IPTV and Broadband Penetration

A strong ecosystem, particularly for revenue sharing, needs to be developed between technology providers, content providers, telecom operators, aggregators, and other players.

Is IPTV relevant and viable for India? The answer is a definite yes. The question that comes to our mind is then why it  failed and has not delivered.

The major bottleneck is an inadequate technical infrastructure of broadband compounded by an unviable business model formulated by the incumbent operators having last-mile access of landline penetration of broadband only limited to metros and big cities so far. Competitive prices and wide penetration of already-existing systems like DTH and cable TV gave a tough competition to IPTV because they are slightly cheaper and appeal to the psyche of TV viewers, who were afraid of trying this new technology as misconception prevails that its users are required to be computer-literate.

The IPTV is more relevant in the current scenario as the earlier leisure-time TV watching habit has been transformed into video snacking. So it will be necessary to develop specific programs considering the demand of the public, with a scope of interactivity. A strong ecosystem need to be developed between technology providers, content providers, telecom operators, aggregators, and other players, particularly about revenue sharing.

The IPTV market is still at a nascent stage but has strong growth potential. It holds a promising future in the Indian market since it offers entertainment, Internet, telephony, and video streaming bundled together. With increasing broadband penetration, IPTV expects to capture the market and give stiff competition to the existing digital cable and DTH players by provisioning cutting-edge services which appeal to users.

Roadmap for IPTV in India is still challenging before it can pick up momentum like wireless communication or DTH services. A lot of issues exist as a barrier for growth of IPTV in India.

Some key issues are:

  • Infrastructure is one of the biggest challenges for the growth of IPTV. India lacks required high-speed wiring and copper cables that enable IPTV services. Old copper or coaxial cables are still being used for deployment of IPTV network.
  • Broadband penetration and n/w capability is the most important factor for success of IPTV in any country as this is its backbone. The existing broadband infrastructure would have to be substantially upgraded.
  • Quality of service. India lacks the required infrastructure to support ubiquitous IPTV. Current subscribers have criticized the quality of services offered by IPTV services companies.
  • Content Readiness and Cost of Content is critical for success of IPTV to compete with DTH and cable operators. IPTV service providers will have to provide high-quality innovative content. There are various costs which are involved – it can be either fixed-fee deal with broadcaster or a la-carte price per channel under IPTV delivery right, which is not prevalent. IPTV service providers will have to offer services that are not being provided by their competitors, including live TV, video-on-demand (VoD), and digital video recorders (DVRs).

IPTV is all about interactivity, so viewers can enjoy on-demand content/programs. Services from a cable or satellite operator are pushed into the home. The user has limited choice and has to keep on surfing channels for variety. Cable TV is a one-way communication, whereas IPTV provides for a two-way communication. The user has complete control over the content he wishes to view. IPTV provides a range of interactive services like, to customize channel views, program flow, instant content sharing (news, videos, programs, advertisement, music, etc.), email, games, shopping, information, Internet access, and even customized advertisements. On request, a program from the TV guide is delivered to you. Also content providers and operators will have to come up with more innovative interactive services to capture the imagination of Indian consumers.

Captive use of IPTV is another segment where technology can deliver amazing results, especially in education, agriculture, health, and commerce. While IPTV has hardly made any inroads, it has the potential of bringing a choice-based user-friendly interactive TV to the home at affordable prices.

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