Monday, June 19, 2006

Shanghai to launch citywide IPTV services in September

SHANGHAI will launch citywide broadband-based TV services in September for the first time as more partners have been roped in and Internet access speed has improved, Shanghai Media Group said yesterday.

At present, IPTV services (Internet Protocol TV), which offer live broadcast channels, video-on-demand programs, weather broadcasts and information on traffic and restaurants, are only available in the city's Minhang District and Pudong New Area with about 100,000 users.

"We will officially launch it (IPTV) in September after Shanghai Telecom finishes upgrading the local network, from 1 megabit to 2M or 3M a second," said Wang Zuogong, vice president of BestTV, an IPTV subsidiary of SMG, the sole national IPTV operation license owner.

Meanwhile, BestTV signed an agreement with, the most popular Chinese-language Internet search engine, to put Baidu's ask-and-answer column "Baidu Knows" in BestTV's IPTV package, which charges users a monthly flat rate of 30 yuan (US$3.75).

"The cooperation creates the magical charm of a combined computer and TV platform," said Wang, who added the firm is seeking more Internet Website partners.

On Sunday, BestTV signed an accord with Hong Kong TVB, a free-to-air broadcaster, to provide users with TVB programs, said Wang.

IPTV's adoption user number is expected to reach 5.7 million in China this year, triple last year's level. The number will jump to 16.5 million in 2008, according to iResearch Inc, a Shanghai-based IT research firm.

Shanghai Telecom uses ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber loop) services to transfer IPTV data. The telco, with more than 1 million local ADSL family users, said it gives IPTV subscribers free set-top boxes to connect the traditional TV to the broadband network.

Although China's IPTV industry will grow rapidly based on 26 million broadband users (by 2005), it still faces problems like uncertain policies and high costs, according to Nancy Dang, iSuppli Corp's analyst.

The breakeven income for IPTV every month is 85 yuan, much higher than the current price level about 30 yuan, according to Dang.

Liang Dong, Baidu's vice president, said the agreement with BestTV doesn't cover profit distribution as IPTV is still at the stage of starting up in China.

Zhu Shenshen from Shanghai Daily


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