While wireless will grow and sure will have an important play in the country, the reason I emphasize so much on the speed aspect is because the moment we say IPTV, we are talking about traffic video, which is both bandwidth hungry and time sensitive. Among the traffic that we’re used to so far, while on one hand, voice is time sensitive but not bandwidth hungry, and data is bandwidth hungry but not time sensitive, IPTV requires both – high bandwidth as well as time sensitivity. So considering these two important parameters, we are talking about a really robust broadband connection, which is capable and is dedicated. For services like a really robust IPTV, the minimum speed you need is 2 mbps dedicated, and ideally 3-4 mbps dedicated, which only wireline is capable of providing in a commercially viable business case.
Although wireless brings in mobility and flexibility, yet if IPTV is to be brought over wireless, it will have to change its form – quality will have to be brought down to keep up with limited bandwidth on mobility, you may even have to learn to live with a certain amount of jitter and flicker because that’s what wireless networks are capable of delivering now or in the near future. Therefore, IPTV on wireless will remain a limited play with limited features, till wireless technologies evolve to deliver dedicated high speed bandwidth to match with wireline Broadband.
Q8) UTStarcom has been in the forefront of product evolution in the broadband and IPTV space across the globe and more so in India. What are the new solutions the industry can expect from the company in days to come?
Ans. The features of our technology offerings can be divided in three forms, with the simplest form being recorded content, which can be viewed whenever you want to. The first phase is already on the floor and is being used by masses. The second form, which is the interactive content, has also been made available now.
Graduating to the third level, we are now trying to make a virtual classroom for the masses, which is right now not in a commercially deployable form.
Similarly, lots of applications which are relevant to India are being worked upon. From Aksh, there is a service called A-Tube that categorizes information and allows users to access information according to categories, ranging from city-specific local information, about shops, cosmetics, healthcare, childcare and so on. And within the information pulled out by the user, the system is capable of embedding only localized relevant ads that are very focused on the targeted audience– in my opinion, this is a very relevant advantage for a large country like India where the audiences differ greatly in their preferences, and we don’t usually fire up the computer to find such information. These are the kind of innovative services we are enabling on top of IPTV in India.
On the same A-Tube service, Aksh is working to provide an application on matrimony, allowing people to upload their text-based profile or even a 5-minute audio-visual profile for a shelf life of let us say 3, 6 or 12 months. Such services will have longer shelf life than placing matrimonial ads in papers.
We’re tying up with different platforms and universities to make available stored lectures available to IPTV subscribers. We have also made available technology to enable interactive content with question-answer sessions.
Using IPTV for tele-healthcare and e-governance are technologies that are available. In fact, Aksh has already tested e-governance on BSNL network in a small village called Kukas near Jaipur, where village panchayat can interact with district headquarters using IPTV.
Q9) What are your upcoming business plans for the Indian market? Any fallout arising out of the announcements made at the global level related to cost saving measures?
Ans: In broadband, we have been the leaders in India for three running years, starting 2007, which was the year of broadband. In IPTV, since the market in India is not large enough and analysts may not be tracking it yet, but we believe that we would have a leadership position in IPTV also.
We are working with the government to see if they could announce 2010 as “a year of IPTV” just like 2007 was “year of broadband” earlier. Such an IPTV year will enable specific programmes and initiatives to drive growth of IPTV infrastructure which will contribute significantly to the country’s growth and productivity.
The telecom market in India has largely remained immune to recession. However, to meet the challenges of the general slowdown in the economy, we have indeed undertaken cost-cutting initiatives. However cost cutting should not be confused with man power cutting. We have not reduced man power in India. But yes, we have taken lots of initiatives to lower down the cost of doing business and bring in better operational efficiencies. We believe that ultimately it is a good thing for the customers if we’re able to maintain same quality at lower costs. From my perspective, that’s an initiative we will continue to have for quite some time.
At the same time, we have not shied away from investing time, resources and money in something that we believe will be good from growth perspective for us the industry, and the country, like IPTV for instance.