Dynamic HDTV set to drive India market

MUMBAI: The Cable & Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA) concluded its annual India Satellite Industry Forum in New Delhi on 22 March.


Themed On the Digital Edge – Where Broadband HITS the Streets, the Forum featured three policy addresses from government departments, as well as high-level inputs from global industry specialists.


Most notable for the high powered gathering of domestic and international officials, delegates and media was a government commitment to the long-awaited harmonisation of the multiple taxes and tariffs affecting India’s satellite, DTH, cable TV and IPTV sectors.  Broadcasters, operators and technology vendors believe this is essential if India is to achieve its goals of industry-wide digital networks.


During a keynote address, Ministry of Information & Broadcasting Government of India special secretary Uday K Varma said, the time frame for digitisation needs to be staggered in view of the number of TV homes and players in the market. Digitisation, he said, is essential if the need for greater transparency and accountability for investment is to be met.


Most recent data shows some 84 million (overwhelmingly) analogue cable TV homes, with 18 million DTH households. There are less than 7 million digital cable and IPTV homes in India.


A second high-value address to the meeting came from News Corp in Asia & Europe director of Legal Competition and Regulatory Affairs Andrea Appella, who picked up on the theme of viable regulatory frameworks, noting that rapid pay-TV market growth follows the implementation of light-touch regulatory policies. Governments should reserve intervention in wholesale TV markets for cases where market failure can be proven, he said.


During panel discussions the industry leadership highlighted that digital sports content will be one of the most effective tools for promoting advanced services such as broadband-based IPTV, HDTV and digital cable.


“The introduction of 3G and HDTV along with the staging of the Commonwealth Games in October will boost new media growth,” said Indian Broadcasting Federation (IBF) president and  DTH provider Dish TV MD Jawahar Goel. “Regional areas where billions of subscribers need broadband services are the silver lining for this industry.”


According to IPTV Forum India Chairman Shyamal Ghosh, the FIFA World Cup will certainly create new demand for IPTV. “Before the Commonwealth Games 2010 starts, IPTV and mobile TV should be pushed.”


Reliance BIG Entertainment president Rajesh Sawhney said, “IPTV is a sexy technology and along with HDTV and 3G it will change the future of our industry. On the content side, conditions are just right if we digitise, we will see around 500 channels in India with more regional channels.”


Despite issues yet to be addressed for the India’s communications sector, regional satellite operators are still very optimistic with the local business opportunities.


“There is vast potential for satellite services in this market. But we also need a regulatory environment that enables more spectrum that can propel HD platforms,” said Measat VP Commercial Operations Terry Bleakley.


“I see India as a most dynamic market. There is a huge demand for satellite services in military, DTH and many other services in India, and I believe that this productive demand will keep rising. However, easy access technology for Internet growth is still required,” said Asia Broadcast Satellite VP Business Development & Regulatory Affairs Srini Prasanna.


“India needs to follow a road map that is pro-consumer supported by a pro-industry approach. Service providers can provide best services for everyone only when the environment for them is conducive and profitable,” said CASBAA CEO Simon Twiston Davies. “A light handed approach to regulation is necessary for a robust growth of the sector.”