HFCL plans to invest Rs 6 billion in 2 years, IPTV in pipeline

MUMBAI: HFCL Infotel Ltd.(HITL), a private telephony operator in Punjab, is planning to invest Rs 6 billion over the next two years for offering a convergence of services including digital cable and IPTV.

The company has already installed an analogue headend at Jalandhar and is making its feed available to local cable operators. By appointing these operators as franchisees, it is able to bundle its telephony and broadband services.
"We are planning to also run a pilot for digital cable and IPTV in four-eight weeks. We intend to invest Rs 6 billion for the convergence project in two years," HFCL Infotel CEO Surendra Lunia tells Indiantelevision.com.

While the company has installed a Scientific Atlanta headend for analogue services, the digital headend is from Harmonic. Iredeto will provide the encryption system.

"We are in talks with various vendors for IPTV. SeaChange, for example, can provide video-on-demand servers and the middle ware. We want to do the systems integration ourselves. We are already streaming IP in Mohali as a pilot with local soultions," says Lunia.

On the content front, HFCL has already signed with Star India for providing its bouquet of channels to cable networks. "We also have an understanding with Star for digital and IPTV, though we haven't formally signed yet. We are in negotiations with Sony as well," says Lunia.

Cable operators have to pay Rs 50,000 to be franchisees and are given a 20 per cent share on revenues from a stream which comprises telephony and broadband. If these franchisee operators invest in the twisted copper line, they will become owners of the network. But there is another scheme where operators needn't invest on the copper line; in such cases, the ownership is with HFCL.

HFCL Infotel has a subsidiary company, Connect Broadband Services Ltd, which handles content and headend operations. The networking is done through HFCL Infotel.

With just 40,000 fixed line telephone connections in residential areas, HFCL plans to expand this base by offering cable TV services. "We have a total base of 200,000 fixed line connections, 20 per cent of which are from residential users. We see this bundled offering as a way to increase penetration. Besides, it will allow us to increase our revenue streams from our users," says Lunia.

The company offers a convergence bill for telephony, cable TV and broadband. Customers have to pay a monthly fee of Rs 699 where they get cable TV, 500 mb of data download at 512 kbps, and 100 telephone calls free.

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