actiptvUpdate:

Verismo informs us that the full settop and IPTV headend technology comes from Verismo and not just Internet videos. Satish Mugulavalli, Co-founder and Chief Architect, Verismo Networks, told MediaNama that ACT owns the pipe to the house and delivers all the services – Broadcast IPTV, VOD and Internet access over their own pipe, hence our argument that people who have Internet access will not subscribing to this does not hold: “the pricing for the full service is competitive and most providers charge this much for unlimited Internet access alone.”

Mugulavalli also doesn’t believe that content from USB is an issue. “You can only record from the TV using the authorized PVR function of the box. This recording is DRM protected and cannot be played on another box from another subscriber let alone playing it on a PC.”

Original Story:

India Value Fund Advisors funded Multi System Operator (MSO) Atria Convergence Technologies (ACT) has the launch of IPTV service in Bengaluru, in areas listed here. This is probably the first instance of a cable operator/MSO launching IPTV services – so far the domain has seen muted participation from telecom operators like MTNL, BSNL and Bharti Telemedia (Airtel). Access to 150 channels is priced at Rs. 299/month, while the set top box is available for Rs. 4999, though they’re offering a discount of Rs. 2000 to the first 500 customers. The detailed pricing is available here.

ACT will invest Rs. 450 crores in Phase 1 of their launch, which will see them expanding operations to parts of Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and other parts of Karnataka, a company spokesperson told MediaNama. ACT has a presence in cities like Indore and Nellore, apart from Bengaluru. They claim to have around 100,000 customers in Bengaluru.

Internet Videos And Your Music, Videos And Photos

Verismo NetworksThe feature of the the IPTV service that we find most interesting is the launch of Internet Video content, and the implications of having USB connectivity – that you can play content on TV from a USB device.

For access to Internet videos, ACT TV has tied up with Verismo Networks, a service which had featured at HeadStart in Bangalore earlier this year. Satish Mugulavalli of Verisimo had told us last month that they’re planning to launch services with an IPTV provider in Bangalore, but not disclosed which one. Verismo has a internet video access device priced at $99, but also provides its technology to OEMs.

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Users can add up to four YouTube accounts to their ACT Interactive TV list, bookmark content and view recently played videos. ACT also intends to launch ACT Email,  and allow users to shop online, and also use banking services, video conferencing and live voting.

Pricing: This is where the service fails – access to online videos is priced at Rs. 350 per month. If you already have a broadband connection – why bother?

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In terms of external content, there is USB connectivity, wherein users can view on slideshows on TV of photos in a JPEG  format. The service supports MPG, MPEG, VOB and WMV video formats. They also support the following music formats MP2, MP3, WMA, WAV, LPCM, and users can also listen to their predefined playlists in M3U, PLS and WPL formats.

Possible Issues

— Content Issues: If there is USB connectivity, and users can view their own videos on TV, we wonder what prevents users from copying content from TV to their devices; can this lead to piracy of catalog content?
— If a viewer uses IPTV to access online content – including p*rnographic content on sites like YouTube or DailyMotion – is that a violation of TVs content code or the Information Technology Act which disallows p*rnography?

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Other Features

Video on Demand: ACT TV has a content library of around 4000 films – mostly Kannada, Hindi and Tamil. They intend to expand that library to include English films.
Time Shifting: ACTs IPTV service allows time shifting (record, pause and play live TV)
Planned Features: Catch-up TV, which records all programs from the last 90 days and makes them available to viewers, E-Shopping, Online Education, Video on Phone, Astrology, News, Stock and Weather Updates, Education.

Take a look at ACTs IPTV User Guide here (PDF, 7.7 MB download)

Pricing: Users will have to pay an additional Rs. 3500 for a 160 GB hard disk storage for recording. Video On Demand is priced at Rs. 200 per month, for upto 300 videos.

Our Verdict

We feel that the service is too expensive, given the cost of the set top box, and the price put on additional features like Internet access. Early adopters of IPTV are most likely going to be people who already have a broadband connection – so why would they watch limited videos on their TV screen?  For consumers who have already installed either DTH or Digital Cable, the cost of the set top box and the fact that one has to pay more for additional services is a barrier to entry.