Thomas K. Thomas

Shanghai, Dec. 21

YOU could soon have an exclusive TV channel for your family. You could even see the person calling you on your home telephone on TV even as you talk. Or imagine being able to record and rewind the latest live action in cricket.

Germany-based Siemens Telecommunications is in talks with all major Indian telecom service providers, including Reliance, Bharti, Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd, to launch its Surpass Home Entertainment Solution (HES) technology, which will enable users to watch digital TV, surf the Internet and at the same time make telephone calls.

"Home Entertainment technology offers unimaginable opportunity for the users to experience the convergence of telecom, TV and the Internet. It will enable the fixed line operators, which has lost significant market share to wireless mode of communication, to up their revenues," said Mr Andreas Mueller-Schubert, President, Fixed Networks Solutions, Siemens AG Communications, after launching the service in Shanghai for China Telecom.

To avail himself of the service, the subscriber needs a set top box, which at the moment is priced between $50 and $250 a piece, depending on the services that you want. The higher priced set top box also enables users to burn TV programmes on a DVD. The TV content is transmitted either through the telephone copper cables using the Digital Synchronous Line (DSL) platform or through an optic fibre cable (OFC).

According to Mr Schubert, home entertainment solutions, which is the Siemens version of IPTV (Internet Protocol TV), will enter the households with an annual growth rate of 99 per cent until 2010 with the largest deployment in China and the Asia Pacific region.

India, the fastest growing telecom market in the world, is also one of the hotspots for this technology. Other technology providers such as Motorola and Alcatel are also eyeing to get a share of this market segment.

Company sources said that Siemens is in talks with BSNL and Bharti to upgrade their existing network to a next generation network. The company had arranged customer visits to competence centre in Vienna and other reference sites to display the technical strengths of the technology. They said that Reliance and Bharti are looking to deploy such services in the next one to two years. "All major carriers are bullish about the market potential for HES networks and plan to commit substantial investment," said a company executive.

However, market watchers here believe that it could be a while before this technology could take off in India. "India is still predominantly a voice-oriented market. Broadband-based Internet has not taken off fully yet with just about 8 lakh subscribers in one year. IPTV and its versions will no doubt spur the demand for broadband, but it will have to be offered at an attractive price point," they said.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 22, 2005)
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