In a bid to protect their DTH interests, Bharti Airtel has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to create a regulatory framework for content aired on broadband networks. Airtel’s ask is in direct contention with Reliance Jio, who is delivering television content through OTT apps using wireless and wireline telecom networks.
As the 5G rollout will unlock higher data transfer speeds with low latency, telecom networks will be the next big content delivery technology. Instead of using cable or DTH to watch your favourite shows and movies, users now prefer to stream their favourite content on smart TVs and mobile devices.
While India has a larger DTH and cable market than most countries, this is set to decline as broadband services become more advanced.
Need for regulation
However unlike the existing distribution platforms, such as DTH, IPTV, MSO and HITS, content delivery using wireline and wireless broadband services is not regulated by the Centre. Moreover, Jio is better positioned to provide content using broadband in comparison to Bharti Airtel, because Jio has a superior spectrum portfolio to Bharti. Bharti Airtel also has a DTH platform, ‘Airtel DTH’ which will be adversely affected by increased proliferation of internet-based content delivery platforms.
Which is why Airtel has asked TRAI for broadcasting content using wireless and wireline broadband under the regulatory fold. Airtel argues that the lack of a regulatory framework for broadcast content being delivered through wireless and wireline broadband services on large screens has created an anti-competitive environment for competitive technologies such as DTH, IPTV, MSO and HITS.
“This convergence of carriage medium with differential treatment of regulation, is analomous and leads to risk of unregulated access of same broadcasting content. Content broadcasting under DPOs gets covered by TRAI’s must carry must provide principle and NTO, but no such regulation exists for content being broadcast on broadband network,” said Airtel.
Pros and Cons
Airtel also highlights that under existing net neutrality rules, telecom providers can secure exclusive content and distribution rights for a popular broadcasting programme and bundle it at an attractive price for its own subscribers. Reliance Jio is the only telecom company that also has a sister broadcasting arm, Viacom. Reliance has also been aggressive about acquiring popular content such as IPL on a premium to further expand its digital and telecom business. While Jio has not applied discriminatory bundling tactics yet, under existing net neutrality rules, it can do so. Airtel is asking for regulatory oversight for such instances.
Jio meanwhile does not want the existing regulations to change at all. Reliance Jio wrote to the regulator – “There seems to be no need to re-engineer the existing regulatory and administration processes. Further, as the Telecommunication laws are already being recast under the draft Telecommunication Bill 2022, any change in regulation should be proposed only after there is a complete clarity in the proposed telecommunication law,” it said.