The Indian Government finally issued guidelines for IPTV services in India yesterday, and there are a few surprises:

— Differential IPTV License Fees: Telecom service providers will have to pay a heavier license fee than ISPs. Telcos will have to pay according to the circle of operation – 10% of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) for Category A circles, 8% for category B and 6% for Category C. Comparatively, ISPs will have to pay only 6% of AGR. The government has blocked a possible loophole for Telcos – if a teleco registers as a cable operator to provide IPTV, it will be considered a telecom operator. There’s no mention of a license fee for Cable Operators, only that Cable Operators will be governed by provisions of Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act and TRAI Act for content.

— Value Added Services: IPTV Service Provider shall furnish the complete details such as name, technical details and license etc of the value added service being provided through IPTV network. Provided that in case of any new value added service is added to the network, the IPTV service provider shall obtain prior approval of the Government or licensing authority.

— The guidelines allow licensees to take content from Multi System Operators (MSOs) and Cable Operators, instead of going to specific channels or IPTV service providers.
— Only broadcast satellite TV channels registered/permitted by the Ministry of I&B shall be transmitted, in the same (unaltered) form. Only those News & Current Affairs TV channels which have been registered by Ministry of I&B will be transmitted

Our Take

— IPTV is “triple play” – voice, data and video. The guidelines are focused on content, look at IPTV as primarily a broadcast technology, and appear to consider everything else (including data and voice) as mere “Value Added Services”. Requiring approval for Data and Voice services on IPTV is a retrograde step – do mobile operators/ data service providers require government approval for Mobile Data Services?
— If IPTV service providers take content from MSOs and Cable Operators, won’t that be considered re-selling?
The notion that IPTV will be differentiated from Digital Cable and DTH by very niche, international channels – for example, a Gaming or Golf Channel – is out the window, since only those satellite channels which have received government approval will be allowed. This procedure is a barrier to entry of international channels, and will delay deployment.

The rest of the guidelines
Time Shift TV: The Government may direct IPTV service providers to ensure retention of content for a period of 90 days unless specified otherwise.
— The Ministry of I&B shall have the right to notify the number and names of channels for compulsory carriage. Which means they’ll push DoorDarshan, DD Sports etc, like they do in case of Cable and DTH.
— The licensee is responsible for ensuring compliance to the content code, as well as the “Programme and Advertisement Codes” and other relevant Indian laws.
— Commercial Interoperability: is meant to allow consumers to switch from one service provider to another, without much of a hassle. “Commercial interoperability here means that there should be an option to get a receiver on a hire-purchase basis, or rental basis.”

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