IPTV is a product of convergence on the back plane. The same Digital Content seamlessly transcends different access Networks be it Telecom Network or Cable Network. In IPTV environ IP content in packets are delivered to different screen be it TV, PC or mobile devices with the help of a gateway / STB. Thus, we see a total convergence scenario in the back plane and the front end, which is the STB/ gateway which may be connected to any reception device.
The regulator has to keep in mind the converging scenario and formulate a simplistic, technology agnostic regulation whereby only the content gets regulated. Thus regulations should facilitate-
Technology Agnostic Approach
Seamless Transition of Content over Platforms
Easy to Comply Copyright Norms
Level Playing Field
As far as Broadcast Channels are concerned it is well guided by the Cable Laws and hence be it in IPTV environ of the telecom operators or cable operators need to be guided by this law only to avoid further confusion. Fragmentation of laws and creation of verticals to address the different ‘avatars’ of IPTV, namely IPTV over fixed line, IPTV over mobile devices, IPTV over the cable and IPTV over WiMAX and future technologies would create a disruption in the content copyright acquisition and make the business scenario extremely complicated. Rather than fragmenting the verticals based on platforms, conduits and reception devices it should address the downlink policy and bring it under the ambit of Cable Laws.
IPTV is enabled by broadband and broadband is a super highway for content. Thus, other formats of content which are unique to IPTV like Video-on-Demand, Internet Content, user generated content and value added content like gaming, telemedicine and e-learning need certain guidelines. The spirit of the regulation environ has to be the level playground for all competitive products, vying for the same customers, be it pricing policy or “must provide” law for the broadcasters.
Another aspect of regulations for the IPTV sector is the presence of a franchisee who procures the content and facilitates distribution of services to the consumers on the last mile connectivity of the telecom companies. Companies like Times Broadband and Smart Digivision are neither telecom operator nor an “agent” of telecom operator. Their function is quite independent of the telecom operator accept that they use their networks.
They are responsible for procuring content.
Responsible for adhering to IPR law and programming code.
Inter-connect and content from the broadcasters like an MSO.
Feed service into the last mile network of the teleco.
They would need to register under the Cable TV Act.
Provide signals to a telecom operator operating under the Telegraph Act and other telecom laws.
So, considering all this, there is a need to bring some changes in the existing regulations.
Cable TV Act should specify that companies registered as Cable Operators/MSOs under the Act can provide IPTV services directly or through cable operators or through telecom operators. In other words telecom service providers offering IPTV services should be able to source content directly from Broadcasters/their distributors or through franchisees.
Up-linking/Down-linking guidelines also need to be amended to enable the broadcasters to provide signals to the franchisees of telecom service providers.
Clarification Required in Programming Code for VOD Service
"Video-on-Demand (VOD)" service is a key offering in IPTV services. Customer can initiate & control (through the remote) the play/ pause/ rewind/ forward on any content (typically a movie) in the library. The movie played is available only to the customer who requested Hit content.
This service is like a virtual DVD service, where the DVD player and DVD are not physically present at customer premises, but the customer has control as he/ she has on DVD at home.Programming Code imposes certain limitations & condition on content shown. These limitations should not be applied to VOD Service. VOD service should be governed on the same lines as Home Video. Any content that is certified by the Censor Board should be allowed on VOD service without further editing.
MTNL's IPTV Ambitions
Hit TRAI Hurdle
State-owned Mahangar Telephone Nigam’s (MTNL) ambitious drive to become a major player in the internet protocol TV (IPTV) services sector is facing a roadblock.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has written a letter to MTNL seeking clarifications as to why it has violated licence conditions under which a basic service operator (BSO) cannot offer value-added services such as IPTV. The regulator has pointed out that MTNL has reported IPTV tariffs and providing it as a value-added service under the BSO licence.
Under the existing policy, only operators with a UASL and cellular mobile telecom services (CMTS) license are allowed to provide triple play services including IPTV. Even internet service providers having a net worth of Rs 100 crore are allowed to provide IPTV services. But a BSO licence holder cannot provide this service.
According to experts, MTNL is now left with a choice of applying for a UASL, which would mean forking out around Rs 401 crore for Delhi and Mumbai, which is a hefty one. At the moment, MTNL has licences to operate basic as well as cellular services. MTNL is targeting around 50,000 customers this year and has already roped in over 6,000 customers since the commercial launch a few months ago. MTNL charges Rs 250 a month for around 102 channels and an upfront payment of Rs 3,000 as rental for the set-top box for providing IPTV services.