At the announcement of Bharti Airtel’s Financial Results, we had a quick word with Atul Bindal, President, Mobile Services about the companys outlook on the IPTV space. Prior to a recent reshuffle at Airtel, Bindal had been President of Telemedia Services, which had launched DTH and IPTV services in the last fiscal.

What are your plans for IPTV?

We’ve launched in Delhi. Over the course of the year, we are in the process of taking this launch to two other cities.

Are you looking at the metros?

It could be Bangalore and Mumbai or Bangalore and Chennai. We are in the process of doing that. Towards the fag end of the year, you may see us coming out in those markets. They key really is to get NCR and Delhi absolutely right, and that’s where the last 100 days have been spent.

So the pace of the rollout going to be markedly slower than DTH?

Well, it’s different. DTH is a mass market entry for us. IPTV is an entry into the classes for us. Through IPTV I’m trying to target my own customers – broadband and landline. I’m giving them the opportunity to have all three services on the same wire.

Do you think that IPTV missed the CAS deadline, and now it’s the challenge of making consumers leave a particular service?

Not at all. That’s a very inside-out view. We believe that the only valid view is outside in from a customers point of view, and what the customer gets is, on the same wire, landline, broadband, TV, a single bill, opportunity to get into value added services, order a pizza, interactive TV, time shift TV. 

Are you looking at broadband fuelling IPTV or IPTV fuelling broadband?

It will be both. IPTV will fuel broadband demand, and wherever we have an existing broadband base, it will be possible for us to…

Anything on the ARPUs that you are getting with IPTV?

It’s adding…it’s layering on top of the ARPUs that we already have. It’s actually becoming an ARPU driver.

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So while Airtel is just targeting 2 cities by the end of the year for IPTV, they’re targeting as many as 1000 cities for DTH. It’s interesting to note that Airtel is also much more measured in its approach to IPTV than, say, a BSNL. BSNL and MTNL have taken a franchise approach, by tying up with IPTV companies like Smart Digivision (MyWay) and Aksh Optifibre.