Every little thing that an incumbent Indian telecom operator does these appears to be a reaction to Reliance Jio: Vodafone has just announced that its content app Vodafone Play will be available without subscription charges for three months, giving users access to “Over 14,000 film titles, 180 TV channels, and a huge catalogue of Music”, as well as live content like “Ganpati celebrations” and “Vodafone Aagomoni – the annual nightlong grand musical extravaganza in Kolkata”. They apparently have over 45,000 hours of content, original digital content from Sony Liv.

What’s really going on here

Vodafone says that they’re trying to resolve the issue of users having to download multiple apps for watching content, and that this is “truly a single window to the world of entertainment”. Frankly, we’re in a world where we don’t really need a telecom operator to be the primary source of services and entertainment. This is why IPTV failed. What the Internet did was that it unbundled services from access: separated content from its carriage, and it beat the bundled offering that was IPTV. The proliferation of content means that there are reasons for each user to get online, and they should be promoting the diversity of content online, instead of their own service.

What they’re really trying to do is perhaps giving users a reason to stick to their service, instead of switching to a competitor like Jio. Jio doesn’t have data charges as of now, and access to content is free and without subscription till the end of the year. Vodafone is trying to match the no-subscription-charges bit for now.

Vodafone is better off being the best telecom operator: focusing on providing better network and cheaper connectivity, and acquiring users, instead of being a source for content. Free internet access is worth its cost when it isn’t usable. People will pay for a network that works, because it works. Of course, if there’s parity in terms of network quality between the two, then Vodafone has a major problem.

Giving an app with content, with “impressive features like Play and Pause on live TV, DVR capability, show timings display, show start reminders, responsive streaming of live TV channels…” wont solve that.