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Content is king in telcos’ 4G gambit

business Updated: Dec 28, 2015 01:05 IST
Suveen Sinha
Suveen Sinha
Hindustan Times
Indian 4G services

Himanshu Kapania, Idea Cellular's Managing Director, speaks during a news conference in Mumbai, India, December 23, 2015. (REUTERS Photo)

Brace up for a new digital marketplace. The foreign investment policy has made sure that the biggest e-commerce outfits in the country are online market places, platforms that do not sell anything of their own and just bring buyers and sellers together. Now, as the fourth generation (4G) of mobile telephony gathers speed with the launch of Reliance Jio on Sunday evening, only for its employees for now, digital market places for content are upon us.

Sunil Mittal’s Airtel is already following the philosophy. And as the Jio service unfolds for everyone by March or April next year, it will unleash a mass of content from all kinds of sources. Jio will, however, also have some in-house content, mainly from its television company, Network18.

Airtel and Jio are seen as the protagonists in the new telecom chapter that opens with 4G, just as they defined the industry when CDMA came early this century.

The China experience with 4G has heightened content consciousness in India. Content consumption went up five times as the country moved from 3G to 4G, the latter makes it much more convenient to watch videos and other visual content. Telecom companies, however, believe that content came and drove 4G, not the other way around.

In India therefore both Airtel and Jio have lined up a feast. “Content from all over the world should be available to customers,” said a top executive of Bharti Enterprises, which owns Airtel.

For instance, if a user wants a messenger service, she will choose the one she finds the best, which may be Whatsapp, or Hike, an offshoot of Bharti, or both, but not necessarily an Airtel messenger. “Our is a food stall. We won’t tell you what to eat, we will just offer you the best. So if you want bhujia, we will direct you to Haldiram,” said the Bharti executive.

Jio has its own messenger, other than television content. But one of its senior executives said that will not make a difference to the way it treats outside content. It may, however, give all the content of its own companies, including the archives. With others’ content, deals will have to be struck and some of them may not want to give their most popular stuff.

Jio News will give you newspapers, Jio Mag magazines, Jio Play will have all the television channels, and Jio On Demand will give you on-demand content. The last kind has seen massive adoption in the west, having doubled in the last three years.