Govt to ask Trai help to work out IPTV norms

In a bid to address several ambiguities regarding IPTV, the government will soon ask Trai to launch a consultation process on this service. Internet Protocol Television is a service where the customer can get digital TV signals (voice, data and video) through their landline telephone connections, rather than the traditional method of cable lines. The technology is considered a threat to DTH, CAS and cable TV industry.

While the telecom and information and broadcast (I&B) ministries have reached a decision on jurisdiction of emerging technologies such as IPTV, there are no regulations in place for this sector. This comes even as some players have launched this service while several other operators are conducting trial runs.

At present, the telecom sector and the cable industry are involved in a slugfest over who can provide this service. Telecom players such as BSNL and MTNL have already launched IPTV on the grounds that the universal access service licence (UASL) permits this service. Other service providers such as Reliance Communications, Bharti Airtel and HFCL Infotel are also slated to launch IPTV services soon.

Not wanting to lose ground to telcos, the cable industry is demanding the inclusion of IPTV under the Cable TV Act. At the same time, the cable TV industry has also warned the government that unless the regulatory and policy issues for this sector are addressed, telecom operators will have a free run and introduce over 3,000 unauthorised TV channels, whose content cannot be controlled by the government.

The issues that are expected to be addressed during Trai’s consultation process include quality of service norms, FDI norms, exclusivity of content, pricing of TV channels over this platform and content related issues.

The consultation process will also lay down guidelines to protect consumer interests in line with other services such as telecom and CAS, sources added.

In Asia, IPTV is presently available in China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand, and is expected to be launched on a mass scale in India and the Philippines in 2007. Countries like China, India and Australia are expected to emerge as high growth markets for this sector by 2009.