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Reliance Jio seen preparing to launch cable TV, not DTH

Hathway offers high-speed cable and internet in over 20 cities

Reliance Jio, the telecom services provider from the Reliance Industries group, is likely to launch its own cable TV services, according to photographs uploaded by anonymous users on web forums.

The photographs were apparently taken at the demonstration of the new service, and come several months after rumors started circulating that the company will launch a DTH service.

However, as we reported in November, the company is not known to have engaged any satellite service provider for Ku band capacity, which is required to launch a DTH service.

The latest photographs suggests that the company is indeed looking at the channel distribution space — but from a different angle.

CABLE + BROADBAND

Part of the reason for entering the cable business may be obvious synergies between the channel distribution service and Jio’s mainstay broadband service.

According to the photographs, Jio’s cable set-top-box will come with an ethernet port to connect it to a modem or router for internet.

This will enable the set-top-box to fetch old programs via the internet, allowing viewers to rewind channels or watch video-on-demand.

Similar services are also available in some of the newer models of set-top-boxes launched by rivals such as Airtel Digital, a DTH service.

Airtel had also introduced a dongle-based service that allows users to watch out-of-order programs using the internet. The device had to be attached to the set-top-box to enable it to download content via the user’s local broadband connection.

FRAGMENTED INDUSTRY

Unlike in other countries, in India, most of the ‘last mile’ connections to cable subscribers are owned by very small ‘local cable operators’.

Large players survive by providing their feed to these smaller operators, who take care of collections, provisioning and the maintenance of the local infrastructure.

This has prevented the spread of cable broadband in the country as the small operators often do not have the expertise, scale or funds required to operate such services.

Jio’s move also comes in the wake of a reverse move by cable companies such as Hathway Cable & Datacom and Siti Networks into the high-speed broadband space.

Some of the large feed-providers have tied up with cable operators to deliver fiber or cable broadband to their subscribers. Some have also bought out the local cable operator using lumpsum payments, but the penetration of such services remains low.

Hathway is the biggest such provider with operations in 20 cities and over 7-8 lakh subscribers for its internet service.

It recently said it will double the data allowance for its high-speed internet plans in light of increasing competition in the field and will increase investment into the business.

In addition, there are also standalone fiber players such as Spectranet, which offer some of the lowest rates of high-speed broadband in the country.

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