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Reliance eyes last mile via cable ops

MUMBAI: Reliance Infocomm has indicated to cable TV operators that it wants to ally with them to deliver digital interactive television and value-added broadband services to customer homes.

The launch date of Netway - Reliance's triple play service - is still not definite, though the company is targeting mid-2005. "We have certain issues to sort out," Reliance Infocomm chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani tells

Reliance Infocomm is still grappling with the last mile problem. But the company seems to be befriending local cable operators. By putting up a stall at SCaT India 2004, which is an annual exhibition on cable TV hardware, Reliance may well have been sending out these very signals to the operators. Also, Ambani was present today to inaugurate the three-day exhibition.

"We are showing cable operators the products that we can offer. This is the first step," says Reliance Infocomm president of Enterprise Prakash C Bajpai.

There is no decision taken yet whether Reliance should go through the local operators. "If we go through cable operators, it will be a faster route. Getting to the last mile ourselves will take time," says Bajpai. "We are, however, weighing the various models," he clarifies. This could also mean a mix of working with local operators and having its own last mile.

A Delhi cable operator, however, feels Reliance is not out to kill the last mile operators. "We have been given assurances that they will work with us and we can earn incremental revenues through their value-added services," says head of Cable Operators Federation of India Roop Sharma.

On the content front, Reliance Infocomm is yet to finalise on what business model it should adopt. The debate is on whether the company should acquire movies or go for a revenue-share model with the content suppliers.

Reliance will take time to launch its triple play service. But when it does, the battle will hot up. "Multi system operators have to gear up as they are the likely targets," says the founder-promoter of an independent cable network.

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