TV remote can double up as phone

Your children could soon be using the TV remote to make line-of-sight phone calls if MyWay, the Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) company, manages to get it right.

"We are working on developing a Bluetooth-enabled remote, with a headphone and mike on either end that can be used for Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calls routed through the Set Top Box," said Kapil Dev Kumar, CEO, My Way.

In some months, MyWay consumers will be able to talk to one another and to anyone with an Internet-enabled device through VoIP services on the lines of Skype.

The 2-in-1 gadget is just one of the attractions that the IPTV service provider has lined up. It also plans to offer remote storage of 200 hours of television programmes for a one time charge of Rs 2,000-3,000 soon.

E-commerce potential

The platform which allows the viewer to send back messages has the potential for e-commerce through TV. At the launch of its IPTV service in January, Airtel had spoken of booking movie tickets and ordering pizzas.

MyWay's advertisement calls for pensioning off competing TV delivery platform and Direct to Home, but IPTV faces its own challenges.

Industry experts say global IPTV numbers are unimpressive. The cost of extending the fibre-optic network to homes becomes viable only in highly dense cities such as Singapore and Hongkong. In India, an independent network operator has to guard his line from the cable operator whose terrain he steps into.

MyWay has the advantage of partnering PSU Internet service providers BSNL and MTNL (for the latter it has access only to the Delhi market) with whom it shares revenue. With an investment of Rs 150 crore planned for the year, it hopes to add 3,000 customers monthly soon to reach 2.5-3 million subscribers over the next few years.

According to the latest TRAI figures, IPTV services earned only Rs 1.14 crore in the last financial year. Compared to 13 million DTH subscribers as of March 2009, broadband had only 6.2 million. "But that is growing at two million a month. And we are working out the financials of offering the service to the non-broadband, wireline subscribers of our ISP partners too," said Dev.

MyWay will be available in Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Pune soon. "Despite the fact that we still don't have Sun Network's channels, the pick-up in the southern cities such as Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore has been very good," said Dev.

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