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3G entering India at the right time

ASHWANI

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MUMBAI: The arrival of 3G into the Indian telecom sector has come at the right time. That is because five years back handsets did not have the capability to exploit 3G capabilities.

Also, while 3G arrival will help multimedia, it will also add to the bandwidth capacity for voice. It will be important for 3G service providers to not get caught up with technology per se; their focus should rest on providing added value which was not there earlier.

These were some points made at a Ficci-Frames session on '3G And Its Business Models'.


Reliance Communications president Mahesh Prasad said that 3G was coming in at the opportune time. "You have to see demand. A lot also has to be done with 2.5 G. What content is appropriate for a network and a device also has to be seen by 3G operators.”

Orange director International TV partnerships Paula Souloumiac said that the content division was set up by the company to buy content and create partnerships with content owners. “We create value for our network by delivering content. We stream live TV channels. These are not channels specially created for the mobile. With the advent of tablets and smartphones, over a million people watch mobile TV in France. We see ourselves as being a content addager.”

She added that the consumer doesn't care if it is 3G or 4G or XYZ. “He wants to know about the services available, the kind of offers being made and pricing. Don’t get hung up on technology.”

IBM Global Business Services VP. Partner Dr. Sumit Chowdhury said that his company works with media companies and aims to create technology to bring things together from the telecom and media side. He expects 4G to launch in a year. “This will give richer content involvement. You will see convergence between devices. User preferences are chasing fast. Children already do DVR and YouTube.”

According to him, what is needed is experimentation on the mobile to see how content interaction happens. Then one can build larger platforms. “Content mobility will grow. Content creators should work with content aggregators sio that they can charge a premium on content mobility.”

The issue of revenue sharing came up in the session. Prasad said that while an operator keeps 25-50 per cent of revenues, they do not charge for the cost of the pipe. In Japan while content creators keep 90 per cent of revenue, they also bear the distribution cost of content which is not the case in India.

Souloumiac said that Orange works with content providers on a broader spectrum. "We work on different business models including a flat fee and fee per user. Children’s content works. People want an experience on the mobile similar to what is on the television. They want the ease of use and personalisation that they get online as well as mobility that the mobile naturally offers. A 3G operator needs tro keep these factors in mind.”





She also said that live content works well; content on demand is also catching up. "The use of catch up TV is spreading. The documentary genre may not do well on the mobile as far as TV viewing is concerned. We package services in different ways. We are doing a mobile TV trial in Tunisia. We are looking at sub Saharan Africa. There, though, you have to keep it in a price point that consumers are comfortable with.”

Telkom Caribe chairman and CEO Mike Singh said that India has to get the current controversy over 2G out of the way and start moving ahead with 3G as soon as possible. “Telefonica will spend billions of dollars in Brazil alone by 2014 due to the soccer World Cup. People will be able to watch matches on the mobile. People don’t want to be digitally constrained, which has been a problem in Latin America. This is also an issue in India.”

He noted that in markets like Guyana and Trnidad, there is huge demand for Bollywood content. “We have had three million downloads of Bollywood content across the Caribbean. Latin America has a content market worth $1 billion. However, India only has a two per cent share. This could easily grow if there was more dialogue."

Mobile Entertainment Forum founder Ralph Simon said that technology has grown and gave the example of Micromax which has brought smart phones to rural India. He sees health and wellness films benefitting from 3G. Another genre that will benefit will be education. Tablets will bring opportunities for filmmakers.

At the session, it was noted that the price of tablets would fall to $200 in the near future. The advent of content consumption on the mobile would happen but filmmakers would be challenged in a crowded app market.

There are 500,000 apps on the iphone, for instance. The challenge for filmmakers is to develop an app for a film or TV show that is an extension of that content.

The ad supported app model makes it difficult for marketers to use narrowcasting to reach targeted consumers. Information available has to be mined in terms of data patterns, Chowdhury said.
 
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