KOLKATA: Digital is it. Across the country, and age groups, Indians are getting online, and consuming more high speed broadband data than ever before, whether it is for entertainment, education, commerce or banking. While the telcos have been serving their needs for a large part, the increasing maw for data and speeds has thrown up increasing opportunities for multi-system operators (MSOs) and local cable operators (LCOs) even as their video distribution operations are seeing churn.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) advisor Arvind Kumar spoke about this potential future of MSOs in a virtual fireside chat hosted by Elara Capital. Kumar said that a number of people want broadband services currently and they are looking at fibre-to-home services. According to him, it is not possible for a telecom service provider to satiate the demand of 300 million households even in the next ten years.
“Therefore MSOs must focus on providing a broadband connection with cable TV services. This is right for them. This makes a very good business case for the MSOs. Neither any TSP will be able to fight with them, nor DTH operators will be able to do so. The MSOs should focus on how to give broadband service at the same time along with cable services to retain subscribers,” Kumar added. He also mentioned that the Covid2019 crisis has proved the demand for broadband connectivity.
He is optimistic about the ability of MSOs to stave off the competition from DTH operators despite the latter having a technological edge. Kumar opined that MSOs can compete with DTH operators in terms of the quality of service, cost-effectiveness and broadband services. Considerably, reports came out after the implementation of the new tariff order indicate that MSOs are losing a large number of subscribers to DTH players.
Along with other economic issues, MSOs face the issue of conflict with local cable operators (LCOs) quite often. According to Kumar, the two parties will keep getting at loggerheads with each other until they understand the whole game. He explained the need for LCOs to upgrade their thought process as well as technology. “The LCOs have to support MSOs to stay relevant in the game. Otherwise, both parties will lose their market share to other contenders,” he pointed out.
Kumar emphasised that LCOs must concentrate on broadband plans and discuss with MSOs. They need to express the longing of coming into the overall picture. He also mentioned that Jio will get support from MSOs if they don’t receive it from the last mile operators. However, he added that LCOs have expertise in dealing with consumers, local authorities which is important to help any broadband operator.
As per TRAI data, there were 19.38 million wired broadband subscribers in India as of 31 May 2020. The top service providers were BSNL (7.93 million), Bharti Airtel (2.41 million), Atria Convergence Technologies (1.64 million), Hathway Cable & Datacom (0.97 million) and Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd (0.97 million).