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Atlas Interactive in deal with BSNL to launch broadband delivered 'netTV'

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MUMBAI: Make no mistake about it, broadband is coming. And it is not just Reliance Infocomm, which is scheduled to unleash its Netway offering at the beginning of the next fiscal.

Atlas Interactive India Pvt. Ltd, a subsidiary of the $300 million Atlas Group has entered into an agreement with Indian telecom giant Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) to provide a range of entertainment and media related services through broadband.

The deal, which was actually signed nearly two months ago (on 20 April), promises to offer TV over IP, broadband, time shifted TV, video on demand, music on demand and an array of other related services over the existing copper network of BSNL to its customers.

Atlas Interactive's Rs12 billion project named "netTV" claims to provide a solution that is able to deliver video, music, broadband access, SMS, email transmission, web & intranet access and data (including real time video and net meetings) at broadband access speed of upto 3 Mbps. This service would be launched in the coming six months in Gurgaon, Faridabad, Ghaziabad and Noida on BSNL's network.

This revenue sharing agreement between BSNL and Atlas Interactive is for a duration of 15 years and for this project Atlas Interactive has shortlisted technology vendors like Siemens, Lucent , ZTE & Tandberg, a company release says.

By using state of the art IP technology, Atlas will be able to offer subscribers of BSNL the widest range of broadcast / TV and broadband / internet content and services at the best combination of quality and cost via the TV sets. Many of these services will be offered to customers for the very first time (e.g. video on demand, video conferencing) while others, such as broadcast TV channels, will be available at much higher levels of quality than are available on today's cable TV systems, the release claims.

Any BSNL customer in the Atlas service area with a television set and a telephone connection will be able to access most of the broadcast services, as well as basic internet functions such as web browsing and email, through a set top box provided by Atlas. Customers with a personal computer will also be able to access broadband internet services, offering much faster web browsing, video conferencing, and very fast file transfer. With the addition of a simple web cam, customers will even be able to undertake video communications with other BSNL customers who sign up for this service.

Broadcast & Television Offerings

These services will be available via the television set, using a special set-top-box.

Atlas is in advanced talks with all satellite and terrestrial channels. These cover the full range of programme genres, including news, sport, soap operas, chat shows, films, music and cartoons. In addition, Atlas estimates that there are currently 247 free to air and 96 paid digital channels currently broadcast by satellite into India, from 27 different satellite systems.

Atlas will also develop pay-per-view (PPV) programming. PPV is for one-off special events which may have mass consumer interest, for example sporting contests (boxing, cricket etc.), special previews of new films, or any other special events where there is a compelling mass-market interest content in a one-off format.

On-Demand Television

In addition to conventional broadcast television channels, customers will also be able to access a vast library of video on demand (VoD) content, including:

.Movies - Indian and overseas

.Children's movies, cartoons and shows

.Education (documentaries etc)

.Sport

.Events, e.g. music concerts, news footage.

Time shifted TV

TV broadcasts will be recorded onto a hard disk. It also claims to provide greater flexibility than comparable video or DVD recording. There are several available solutions for providing this functionality, including in the network, on a PC or via the set top box, the release says.

Atlas also promises to provide music --- both free-to-air radio channels including All India Radio (AIR) and all the other private FM stations apart from on-demand archive music.

Apart from that there are Education services, interactive games, E-mail / Web Access, E-Commerce, E-Health, Interactive TV, video conferencing, broadband offerings, messaging, and high speed Web access.

Atlas Group Chairman Philippe Bednarek was quoted as saying, "Before long, the TV will begin to rival the PC in terms of technology. Our aim is to converge telephony with internet and television content in India, where the potential for growth is mind boggling. It is a market for 60 million fixed line subscribers of Government teleco's. Once the subscriber gets used to watching TV and video / movies on demand movies on this service, they will forget about the unreliable services from the local colony "cable-walah" and ancient and unreliable internet dial-up that have perpetual problems and blackouts."

A high profile media campaign that will unroll in the next few months is being planned ahead of the launch of netTV.

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