Bharti Airtel is planning to launch progressive download (PDL) service, a Video on Demand service, for which it has sought permission from the Department of Telecom (DoT), according to documents viewed by The Hindu.
The report states that the PDL service will consist of two services — video-on-demand and Catch-up TV service that will be provided under Unified Access Services Licence (UASL) as Internet protocol TV (IPTV) services. Catch-up TV service will allow customers to watch a particular TV program after the broadcast without the need to record it. Customers would be required to pay a monthly subscription fee for the channels available on Catch-up TV service. However, these channels would be selected by Airtel and would be available in recorded format for seven days. What’s interesting is that Catch-up TV service will be only available to customers if they have subscribed to the channel on Airtel’s DTH service. That is, users cannot have a separate channel package on DTH and Catch-up TV.
To subscribe to the service, users will have to be an existing Airtel DTH and broadband customer. As for the company, the service will be utilizing the infrastructure provided under direct-to-home (DTH) and Internet service provider licences. As a result, the revenue collected by the service with be distributed between between Bharti Telemedia Ltd (which holds a valid licence to provide DTH services) and Bharti Airtel Ltd (which holds a valid UAS licence to provide IPTV services). About 70 percent of the revenue generated will be allotted to Bharti Airtel and the rest would be allotted to Bharti Telemedia, as noted by the report.
Since PLD essentially requires a broadband connection for subscribing to the service, it needs to be seen how Airtel manages on the bandwidth to access content from the cloud. Now, even if a customer does have a broadband connection to subscribe to the service, the official definition of broadband speed in India is 256kbps which would not really give a satisfactorily result for the service. The broadband speed in India is subjected to increase only after the implementation of NTP-2012, even then it will be 512Kbps till 2014-15 and 2Mbps after that.
If Bharti Airtel wants to see the service to reach the masses, it should provide a service package for PLD with a decent broadband connection with speed above 2mbps for an uninterrupted service.
Last year, Tata Sky had launched its Video on Demand service which includes Catch Up TV and VoD Movie Library. The service included channels like Star Plus, Colors, SAB TV, NDTV, SONY Entertainment, Channel V and others which would be hosted on the Tata Sky server. The service also featured a Movie Library with over 500-1000 movie titles across multiple genres and languages.