Mumbai, June 6: We’ve got them talking, now we’ll get them watching — the Ambanis who changed the way customers take cell calls have set sights on cable TV.
In a peek reserved for a select band of shareholders, Reliance Industries took the wraps off an array of infocom services that it plans to launch in the months ahead.
One of the high-stakes ventures that could get going is the cable entertainment business. The vehicle for this year-end debut will be set-top boxes, wired through Reliance’s 60,000-kilometre optic fibre network.
Investors on a trip to the sprawling Dhirubhai Ambani Knowledge City were told that limited mobile telephony could become just a sliver of the infocom pie next year; the bulk of the income could come from broadband.
Reliance officials gave an outline of their ambitious plan but did not reveal details. The full potential of the largest and most complex rollout in the global communications industry will come through after the third phase is completed — connecting one million locations
Customers will be able to use Reliance Infocomm’s cable network to watch cable television, surf the internet, call for video on demand and even plug in a phone.
Chairman and managing director Mukesh Ambani had said while unveiling Reliance IndiaMobile that the quest was for a model where Reliance Infocomm can relate to every individual, every home and every enterprise directly by delivering physical, virtual products and services in one system.
Mobile telephony was the first phase. The second, kicking off within a few months, will lead to an enterprise netway. The third phase will end with the setting up of Consumer Convergence Net — all of it in 2003.
Problems faced by Reliance Indiamobile over the past few months overshadowed the second and third phases, but shareholders were told that they are on course.
At the same time, an intensive effort is being made to iron out the crimps in limited mobility services. Sources say Reliance and Lucent engineers have fanned out across the country to spot and rectify weak signals, minimise call drops in short distance charging areas (SDCAs).
“Reliance’s perceived debacle in its telecom launch might only be a precursor of the fact that it will offer greater competition,” said a Kotak Securities research report.
The high-point of the shareholders’ visit to the Reliance hub was the prototype of the set-top box in the works. At the size of a modem, it has been designed in-house, by a group company called Inno Media, sources said. Excited shareholders asked if the company could dish out enough of these in time for the July 14 switchover to the conditional access system (CAS) in metros.