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Strengths, weaknesses of different platforms discussed















MUMBAI: On the second day of the fifth International Conference on Communications Convergence being organised by the Indian Merchants Chamber (IMC), one of the opening sessions looked at DTH vs Cas vs Wireless vs Mobile vs IPTV vs...?


Indiantelevision.com founder and CEO Anil Wanvari spoke the web versus the rest. He said that the versus term is exaggerated. "The different platforms will co exist side by side. A person will check out news on his mobile on the go. He will come home and watch television and then surf the Internet.


Having said that, the Internet will be the next media of choice. That is due to the social networking opportunities it offers. The net is good for short form content of two to three minutes in length. Going forward five to six minutes of content will be the norm.

 

"Rajshri Media is using the net already for fiction content. We at Indiantelevision.com are producing clips with TV stars. This has proven to be very popular with readers. More importantly it opens up opportunities like those of social networking. What is also promising is that bandwidth costs are going down.
Gaming, chats also make the net a rocking area to be in for a consumer."


It is estimated that there will be over 100 million cable and satellite homes in 2010. DTH homes will be around 10 million. At the moment 21 million people access the net. This number doubles when you take into account cybercafes. In three years time there will be 100 million net users. There will be 20 million broadband subscribers by 2010. Right now it is around two million which is much less than what had been anticipated. The number of mobile users is growing at the rate of six million a month. This is expected to hit the 200 million mark by end 2007. In IPTV there should be one million homes in the next two to three years, but Wanvari noted that this platform is turning out to be a lame horse. This is due to the lack of differentiated content.


As far as the net is concerned he quoted figures from an Iamai study released last year. This notes that as the age of the user goes up he/she spends more time on the net. Also those with broadband spend more time compared to those who have a narrowband connection.


While school kids spend 322 minutes a week on the net, college students spend 433 minutes. Older men spend 580 minutes. Working women spend 535 minutes each week online. Blogs, P2P, online radio and online TV will drive net usage in the years to come.


He says that DTH faces an uphill battle against Cas.
For instance in his building the society did not allow the DTH dish to be put up.

 

"Cas consumers are happy with what they are getting.
While I am not in a Cas mandated area I have taken a set top box. I pay Rs. 300 for 186 channels. When my area falls under Cas I will be wiling to pay double that. After all going for a film with my family costs around Rs. 1000. One needs to bear in mind that at the end of the day the consumer does not care about how he gets the content. What the content consists of is more important."


IndusInd Media and communications executive director Ashok Mansukhani took up the case for cable. He says that in a convergence arena television will grow fast.


Today there are 64-68 million cable and satellite homes. Out of this 34 million are controlled by small and medium operators. Analogue cable is a challenge as the broadest pipe can only accommodate 100 channels.


There are around 220 channels in existence. The government he says is now looking at digitisation in 35 cities by 2010. 500,000 set top boxes have thus far been installed. He gave credit to Trai for setting up a voluntary Cas committee and also to its tribunal.


He says that the cable fraternity does not treat DTH as a joke. Also it does not look at IPTV as something that will not happen. "We are willing to meet the competition. Along with television cable operators offer internet, VoD. DTH is a more costly proposition compared to cable. Also one DTH operator has a call center in Poona. I do not know how much they will know about Napean Sea Road. The cable operator has a more close contact with his customers. What we are finding during Cas is that the customer wants only 10-15 channels. They do not want their bill to cross Rs. 200. We have asked the government to allow Cas on a nationwide basis."


He says that set top boxes are available on rental schemes. He says that cable operators should look at buying back boxes of dissatisfied DTH customers. "It will also be exciting to see the impact of ARPU. IPTV has issues. Unfortunately the government is sleeping over the issue of whether it is a telecom service or a video service. A successful business model needs to be built. Also the issues regarding 3G in mobile should be settled as soon as possible."


The basic issue is to bring in competitive choices at value for money pricing. While cable will be the mainstay of television viewing regulation needs to lead technology not follow it. He is favour of the communications convergence bill being revived. It is technology neutral and will thus allow a firm that is affirm that at once is an MSO, a broadcaster running local channels and a net player to operate in a broad facilitative environment.


Reliance Communications CIO Sumit Chaudhary says that one should be able to buy the digital rights to a product like a film and then view it on different platforms. That is what convergence is moving towards.


"If I have the digital rights to a film then I should be able to get the ringtone for a song without having to approach another operator. One should be able to transfer content to different devices." He also spoke about the front end and back end nature of content. Front end is what the consumer sees in front of him.


Backend is the network infrastructure, customer management service which allows the operator to get revenue. DTH needs a headend, transponder. The customer needs a dish. Cas has a digital headend. The consumer needs a box.


Content travels through a fibre or copper medium. Broadband also travels in this manner. At the backend challenges include audio and video restoration, colour correction. There is a pre processing and post processing that happens. The latter involves things like meta tags, trailers, ads.


The encoding system is different for each platform. Digital Rights Management is key or the content owner will not allow you to transmit content. The IPTV headend he notes has al kinds of servers. Then you need to work on Metro area networks and building access networks.


Reliance will add 100,000- 200,000 building networks a year. The challenge is that the cable industry is tough to breach.

 

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