Sling Media has launched popular TV streaming device Slingbox in the Indian market. The variants that will be available include Slingbox 120 (standard definition, at Rs. 7999) and Slingbox PRO-HD (supports High Definition content, at Rs 14, 999). It will be available at electronic retail chains Croma and Reliance Digital to begin with, and via e-commerce sites Flipkart starting May 2011.

Slingbox is a ‘video place-shifting’ device, allowing users to hook-up a TV source like an analog coaxial cable or a Cable or Satellite set top box and stream TV content via the Internet to a computer or other portable devices including iPads and smart phones. It also lets users change channels or access volume controls by acting as a virtual universal remote via Infrared Blaster. To prevent piracy, the TV stream can be viewed only on one device at a time.

While the Slingbox 120 isn’t available in the US, the Slingbox PRO-HD is available in the US market at $299.99, roughly Rs 13,277 as per the prevailing conversion rate. This means that the device is 12.96% (Rs. 1722) more expensive than the US version. In addition to the box, the company has also launched SlingLink, a device that facilitates video on home Internet network connections. The SlingLink networking device is available at Rs 4,999.

All devices will be available in Bangalore, Mumbai, Delhi and Hyderabad in the initial phase of the launch, according to the company.

SlingPlayer App

Slingbox also has SlingPlayer, an application that brings the TV stream to mobiles and other devices is priced at $29.9 and supports iPhone, iPad, Android, Symbian, Windows Phone 7 and others. To view the stream on a PC or Mac, one only needs a web browser.

Works With Indian DTH and Cable STBs?

Various support threads on the company’s forum suggests that a lot of users who have brought the Slingbox to India, have not been able to hook up their Set Top Boxes with the device. We wonder if the device, now officially launched in India, is able to support all digital cable and DTH boxes by default. We could not verify this since we do not have access to the box which is needed to advance to the stage where the user can search and select his Set Top box make and configure its remote control. This will also come as a challenge to Sling Media since the Indian market is highly fragmented and even a single MSO or DTH operator might be using STBs manufactured by different suppliers.

Is India Ready for Connected TVs?

The device mainly targets TV buffs who own sophisticated portable devices and have a high speed Internet connection.

There are no additional monthly costs once a user purchases a Slingbox other than what he pays for Internet usage. The device is surely heavy on Internet data consumption, since it uses data to upload TV content on one side and for streaming data back on the other. We wonder if bandwidth and latency offered by Indian ISPs will be able to support TV streaming or any sort of connected TV services. The cherry on top is the Fair Usage Policy caps imposed by ISPs which limit data transfer. And, even after the launch of the much anticipated 3G data services, very few subscribers are adopting them owing to expensive data tariffs and absence of unlimited data transfer plans.

MediaNama readers might recall Bangalore based ACT’s IPTV service which was based on Verismo’s connected TV platform and streaming Internet videos. The best part about that solution was that Internet usage was not billed separately.

With mainstream players like Google and Apple offering TV devices, and dedicated services like Hulu, Netflix and Roku there has never been a better time for couch potatoes.

If only India had better Internet infrastructure.