Another indication that 3G services will focus on data consumption, comes from Tata Teleservices, which announced the launch of Photon TV powered by Apalya Technologies. Photon TV allows Tata Photon Plus subscribers to watch live television channels and recorded TV shows while on the move.
Though data charges are extra, the channel subscription cost is low: at Rs. 4 per channel per month; or Rs. 29 per month for a bouquet of 10 channels; or Rs. 75 per month for all 40 channels.
However, according to the Tata Photon TV website, “these rates doesn’t (sic) include charges for special events like cricket matches etc“. So is Tata Photon TV also planning to introduce pay-per-view options on Photon TV, for programming on channels that users are already paying for?
The only way they can do that is by blocking access to certain channels during the special events. Imagine if your cable operator or DTH service provider started doing this. To us, this appears quite out of the ordinary, and might eventually attract regulatory scrutiny.
Update: A tricky situation. Lets take the example of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The TV rights are with Sony Entertainment Television, and the digital (mobile and Internet) streaming rights are with NetLinkBlue Holdings. What happens when a match being broadcast on Sony is streamed via a data card connection to a laptop? From a consumers perspective, he has paid for viewing Sony, but from a rights holders perspective, Sony doesn’t have Internet and Mobile rights. Who do you think is in the right? A case in point for not separating digital and TV rights.
Data Charges Applicable
From a consumers perspective, despite the channel cost being low, the catch here is that data charges will be applicable, and over and above the channel pricing. The streaming of channels will use up as much as 1-2 MB per minute, so your Photon+ Lite plan of 0.5 GB might last as little as 5-8 hours.
We wonder if Apalya is making anything beyond the channel pricing: are they getting a data revenue share? For Tata, the data heavy product will provide incremental revenue at the rate of Rs. 0.5 per mb once the data limits set for their connectivity packages have been exhausted.
While the (promised) 3.1 mpbs connectivity might be sufficient for the quality of the stream that Apalya provides, note that connection speeds on the data cards is often not seamless, particularly when on the move. While one might not notice the difference while browsing, live streaming is quite another issue altogether. The service will also operate primarily in the 33 cities where Tata Photon Plus offers 3.1 mbps; outside of those cities, the network switches to 2G.