Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) is all set to get a fillip with the Planning Commission agreeing to include its expansion in the 11th Five Year Plan as part of the government's efforts to achieve complete coverage of digital television by 2012.
Rajeev Ratan Shah, member-secretary, Planning Commission, told representatives of the IPTV India Forum that the government will consider tax relaxation on the hardware for IPTV in the 11th Plan to provide a wider choice to consumers. The commission will soon initiate the process of consultation between different ministries on the issue.
The commission, in its document on digital television, had envisaged expansion of digital television — Direct To Home (DTH), Conditional Access System (CAS), High Definition Television (HDTV) — to the entire country in phases beginning next year. IPTV will also be part of that plan, he added.
A step in that direction had already been taken with Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) coming out with a consultation paper on IPTV and stating that broadcast content would be regulated by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. The ministry, on its part, has included IPTV in the Broadcast Regulation Bill, 2007, to provide a level playing field for IPTV service providers with cable television and DTH service providers.
In a presentation to the commission, the forum promised IPTV service at a highly affordable price for viewing channels on personal computers and mobile handsets. "Interactivity and time shift television that provides the consumer freedom to watch any programme at their convenience are two unique features of IPTV for both personal computers and mobile phones. The cost of watching upto 150 TV channels will be similar to the price of CAS or DTH, the forum said.
Like CAS, IPTV will be available through a set-top box but it will allow the flexibility to shift from television to computer mode instantly.
Consumers would be able to watch television and work on their personal computer simultaneously, the forum said and all this would be available through a single broadband connection. For mobiles, the consumer will have to subscribe to the service.
However, concerns over regulatiory issues remain. The forum says that standardisation of the interface and protocols were necessary to promote competition and ensure affordability and convenience. Issues related to the quality of service and tariffs should also be handled in the respective licensing regimes. The commission clarified that the government would sort out the regulatory issues by end of this year.
The market for IPTV is expected to grow from 10 million connections in 2007 to 20 million by 2010, with the big metros taking a big slice of the pie. Globally, IPTV has taken a big leap with revenue doubling from $2.5 billion in 2005 to $5 billion in 2007.