Sunday, 23 March 2014

Is the ‘Tata Sky Mobile App’ too ambitious for India’s Network Infrastructure?

On May 2013, Tata Sky launched “new version” of their Tata Sky Mobile App for the Android platform. This app is supposed to be doing tonnes of stuff for you. Their catchphrase is ‘Take your TV with you, everywhere you go’. It lets you use your android device as a remote control for the Tata Sky Set-top box, Use Remote Record functionality, browse through their EPG (Electronic Program Guide) & much more. And recently we have noticed a trend wherein many DTH Service Providers are rendering streaming of On The Go television. That’s a really welcome trend, but do we really have the necessary telecom infrastructure to avail these services?

4G is yet to pick up the pace in India. However, we can certainly say that most of the metros in India have fair 3G connectivity. The Wi-Fi dependent services of the Tata Sky Mobile App (remote control, gesture remote etc.) can surely be used hassle free. However, that should not be the true purpose of a DTH mobile app. You already have your Set Top Box Remote for that. I feel that the true value proposition of such apps lies in the prospect of providing streaming television. However, such a ground-breaking functionality requires very high speed & high fidelity networks. Are such networks present in India over larger areas? The only times I encountered such WiFi networks having high-speed internet connectivity were in corporate offices, colleges & some households. In none of those places watching television on mobile is readily allowed or advisable (unless the organization is Google or Facebook, of course). It’s not allowed in colleges & offices while you could simply switch on your TV set when you are at home. The real benefit of this app is being able to stream television on road (not while driving!), on playgrounds, on outings, in food joints (this may be possible in a few places).
Coming back to our discussion about internet connectivity, do our cities (lets skip villages for now) have that powerful internet ‘in the air’ to render hiccup-free video streaming?  I think not. And we all know about the hugely inflated costs of unlimited 3G connections. The spotlight is now on the telecom service providers, who must weave efficient network architectures to attract the public at large. Companies like Vodafone, Reliance have already sensed this & they have started to focus on their 4G infrastructure in India. Soon enough others will have to follow suit. 

Lastly, dear reader, what is your opinion about the Tata Sky’s strategy? Is it too soon to roll out such services in our market or is it a tactical masterstroke designed by peeking into the future?  I guess only time will tell. I for one think that it is just another value added service without any practical advantage; but it is something which could be a make-or-break kind of masterstroke in future.   

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