Airtel launches IPTV services in India

iptv

Airtel has launched their IPTV services today in India under the banner of “digital TV Interactive“. Note that this service is different from the DTH service under the “digital TV” banner.

According to wikipedia, IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is a system where a digital television service is delivered using Internet Protocol over a network infrastructure, which may include delivery by a broadband connection. Commonly referred to as Triple Play (voice, data, and video), here is a diagram explaining how this works :

iptv_block_dg

Note that the TV channel data uses a separate PVC (private virtual circuit) from the set top box at your home to the ISP. The equipments at service provider’s end multiplex the data packets with the TV channel packets and send them to your device. The set top box them pulls out the TV channel data, decodes the audio and video, and send it out through the different ports. The same can also be done using a computer software. This data stream uses approx 2.5 – 5 Mbps of bandwidth and is separate from the actual broadband connection stream. So watching TV will NOT affect your download or upload speed.

The set top box looks like this (no bigger image available yet):

airtel_stb

It is interesting to note the connections available in the STB:

airteltv_stb_back_image

Port Description
1 Power supply input
2 Reserved interface
3 Digital audio output interface (S/PDIF)
4 S-Video output interface
5 Composite video output interface
6, 7, 8 Y, Pb, Pr component output interface
9, 10 Analog audio output connector (L: left channel; R: right channel)
11 USB interface
12 To connect to an uplink network

I am particularly happy with the following ports. They indicate and bring us one step closer to HD content transmission in India:

S/PDIF: This will enable high quality 5.1 dolby digital or DTS audio. Hook it up with your home theater equipment and you can experience 5.1 channel surround sound audio. Note that this is dependent on the content provider. None of the TV channels currently support this. Hopefully the video on demand movie service and future HD channels will support Dolby audio.

S-Video: Most LCD and plasma TVs and some CRTs have this input. This can also be used to send the video to a computer.USB interface: Probably used to update the firmware. It would be cool if it can play audio/video files off a pen drive/HDD.

Component output: Finally, this will do justice to the so called “DVD quality” transmission and will deliver HD resolutions when HD transmissions are started in India.

Reserved interface: Dunno what it is. However, the shape resembles that of an HDMI port – too good to be true.

The remote looks cool too:

airtel_remote_image_iptv

The service is currently available in Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon only. Probably because Airtel has the most number of subscribers in these cities. Subscribers will enjoy:

Powerful Electronic Programming Guide (EPG):
This is a much more comprehensive guide than the one available over standard DTH services.

Video on Demand (VOD):
Watch movies truly on demand. This is NOT like the scheduled broadcast over DTH. This is true on demand service, whenever you want.

Interactive applications:
Purchase pizza and movie tickets on your TV with the press of a button on the remote. Complete visual interactive menu available on screen.

Time Shift TV:
Pause and rewind live TV. Network based Personal Video Recorder (PVR) allows you to watch the content according to your convenience. Over 10000 programs available every week to view at your convenience.

Parental Control:
Parents can lock VOD content to prevent younger children from accessing inappropriate content.

In addition to the above cool features for subscribers, there are benefits for content providers:

DRM (Digital Rights Management):
Apparently, the content over digital TV Interactive will use advanced Digital Rights Management system (DRM) to prevent piracy. This is another bizzare claim byAirtel in lines with the previous LOL announcement.

Finger printing:
The system supports ‘Finger Printing’ that further helps track illegal copiers. I am not sure how this crap is gonna help the broadcasters. I believe they want to ensure there are no illegal copies rather than run around tracked illegal copiers.

Currently, there are 2 plans available:

Magic@ Home Triple Play Plan (Rs. 999 per month):

  1. 135 TV channels
  2. 256 kbps broadband speed with unlimited download
  3. Land line connection

Combo Pack (Rs. 599 per month):

  1. 117 TV channels
  2. 256 kbps broadband speed with a download limit of 2.5 GB

More information is available at the digital TV Interactive microsite at http://airtel.in/interactive/index.html. Ironically, the site is performing pretty slow at the moment. A lame move from a company promising to deliver high quality video over broadband.

The price for the set top box and installation charges (if any) aren’t announced yet. However, if you are interested in getting this installed in your house no matter what it costs, head over to this link – http://airtel.in/IP-TV/buy-digital-tv-interactive.htm (doesn’t work for me) or give them a call at 1800 – 102 – 8080 or +91 11 4444 1111.

The launch will be widely accepted by subscribers in India, however its success will depend on the initial entry price. Anything below 5k is a decent price for such a service. The price should decrease further when other players enter the IPTV arena. Reliance & MTNL already have the service in place but do not seem to be interested in getting them installed in people’s homes.

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Comments

7 Responses to this post

  1. Sanjeev says:

    Thanks for providing such great details. Nice work !!

    One question though…how will the channels retrieve data i.e. using the 256kbps connection or will there be a separate connectivity for those?? If it uses the same 256 kbps connection, will it be sufficient??

  2. Setu says:

    @Sanjeev –

    Good question. This should have been clarified in the article above. I have incorporated it now.

    The answer is No. TV channel data uses a separate PVC (private virtual circuit) from the set top box at your home to the ISP. The equipments at service provider's end multiplex the data packets with the TV channel packets and send them to your device. The set top box them pulls out the TV channel data, decodes the audio and video, and send it out through the different ports. The same can also be done using a computer software. This data stream uses approx 2.5 – 5 Mbps of bandwidth and is separate from the actual broadband connection stream. So watching TV will NOT affect your download or upload speed.

  3. PRADEEPKUMAR says:

    Nice explanation… 🙂

  4. Shailesh says:

    Can this run on a different ISP like for example I have a LAN Cable coming from my ISP and its a 5 MBPS connection. Can I take the service from Airtel and run this on the ISP I have or I have to take the service of DSL from Airtel.

    Also, if its not possible to take this service without take the DSL from Airtel, is there any other IPTV service provider which can give me the IPTV service without depending on the DSL.

    Or is there a way I can get the service from Airtel without depending on the DSL.

    • Setu says:

      No it is not possible with Airtel. BSNL also provides IPTV service under the banner of myway, but I believe that will also need you to get their broadband service.

      BTW, which ISP is providing 5 MBPS connections? Is it megabits or megabytes? And what are the tariffs?

      • Shailesh says:

        I am outside India and have a 6Mbps pipe down and 2Mbps pipe up…. I am a networking guy so I can create a tunnel pipe over the internet to a location for this…..

        I was thinking if possible to get the IPTV running in India outside @ a cost (Obvious)…. like Airtel and BSNL….

        I am simply impressed with the advancement on the media over the IP in India… not all western countries have that ability yet….

  5. […] Re: Airtel IPTV. To go for it or not? It is technologically better than DTH as: – there is no disruption of service in bad weather. – Interactive features ready – enough bandwidth for carrying HD signals. So future proof. Also, with Airtel IPTV, you can watch TV shows stored on Airtel's servers for the last 7 days. This is not possible with DTH unless you have a PVR like TataSky+ (which cannot store all the shows). You can read woikr's review here: Airtel launches IPTV services in India | woikr […]

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