New Delhi: Public sector telecom company MTNL today announced that its internet protocol television (IPTV) would be available in service in Delhi and Mumbai from 1 November, 2006. Heralded as the broadcast system of the future, IPTV will allow viewers to opt, demand, receive and control content customised to each individual.
The service will utilise MTNL's existing broadband network as the content delivery backbone and will be available to all MTNL broadband subscribers in the two metros.
MTNL will offer this service to its broadband subscribers using its existing broadband network. The service will initially offer traditional television broadcast, time-shifted TV (where the last one week's television content aired on any channel would be available at the push of a button), video and music on demand and video-calling on TV facilities.
The software, hardware, service set-up and content delivery will be managed by Aksh Optifibre Ltd. MTNL will function as the service provider taking charge of operations and revenue collection. Aksh will provide the IPTV service to MTNL using the RollingStream proprietary technology developed by UTStarcom, a global leader in the manufacture, integration and support of IP-based, end-to-end networking and telecommunications solutions.
Registrations for the MTNL-IPTV service will opened from 25 October, 2006, and commercial operations will begin from 1 November, 2006.
"Consumers expect services that are both innovative and affordable from MTNL," said RSP Sinha, CMD, MTNL. "The possibilities with IPTV are endless. Video-on-demand, audio-on-demand, game-on-demand, video-calling, tele-medicine, e-distance learning, virtual classrooms are some of the innovative applications of IPTV.
MTNL has 1.52 lakh broadband subscriber in Delhi and 1.83 lakh in Mumbai.
MTNL says its IPTV service will be priced aggressively and in order to compete with the tariff being offered by DTH or cable TV. The service will be provided on a tiered fee basis. The fee would be completely de-linked from traditional billing for broadband usage and will be charged as a fixed monthly amount, independent of the number of hours used.
The service fee will be priced around Rs250 for a quarter. The monthly content fee, on the basis of the content a viewer selects, will vary from Rs150 (for all broadcast channels currently available and features like time-shifted TV) to Rs1,500 (for value added services).
At current comparison, a viewer will be able to enjoy all channels currently viewed through traditional cable systems or DTH with additional features such as time-shifted TV at approx. Rs250 per month.
The system is also CAS-ready and does not require a separate set-top box. Moreover, MTNL says that the fee rationalisation for pay channels will automatically be adjusted in the monthly charges.
From 1 January, 2007, subscribers would get a consolidated bill for all the three services - telephone, broadband and IPTV.
For subscribers wishing to use an IPTV set-top box, MTNL has formulated the deposit on it in an innovative fashion. The one-time deposit will be converted into an interest bearing fixed deposit for a 5-year term in favour of the consumer. The entire amount (with interest) will be paid back to the consumer upon maturity or termination of service and return of the set-top box.
Acxcording to Dr Kailash Choudhari, managing director, Aksh Optifibre Ltd, "IPTV is the future of home entertainment and communication. The guaranteed success of this service is also a forerunner to the inevitable arrival of fibre-to-home content delivery backbone in India.
"With the launch of our IPTV service today, Aksh Optifibre has emerged as the only Indian company that finds itself fully integrated from a leadership position in manufacturing of optical fiber to hardware and software management and content and service delivery. The company will be uniquely advantaged as a solution provider for a service that can potentially reach over 40 million consumers nationwide," Choudhari added.
According to Vijay Yadav, managing director, UTStarcom, "Having established a dominant position in the broadband space in the country and worldwide technology leadership in IPTV arena, UTStarcom is ideally positioned to support select service providers in leveraging the potential of the latest in technology."
The biggest advantage is that IPTV will offer to consumers the ability to integrate television broadcast with other IP-based services like high speed internet access and voice-over-internet - all accessible on the television set.
Video-on-demand, with a library of thousands of movies that can be beamed onto a television set at the push of a button; booking of movie tickets with your television remote, online chats, the applications are unlimited.
Being an open platform, IPTV will also allow creation of thousands of third-party applications that can be offered through the system - from placing orders for cakes and flowers to trading of stocks while watching a business news broadcast channel and even advanced tele-medicine for which the remote centre would only need an MTNL line and a television set.
Even at home, IPTV would add a visual dimension to a plain old telephone call - imagine the photograph of the person calling you on the landline flashing on your television screen. Imagine, yet again being able to answer the call not by picking up the hand set but by clicking the TV remote button while watching a riveting programme.
MTNL, which caters to customers in Delhi and Mumbai, would be the first service provider to start the 3-in-1 service though Bharti has been offering a similar service, Triple Play, on a pilot basis in some parts of the country.