Reliance Broadband: Services Coming......But When?

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

The endless wait for Reliance's retail broadband and IPTV services

continue. There has been no formal announcement of the launch of consumer

broadband services, renamed Broadnet. There is also confusion whether the

services are available or not. It

is a pity for Reliance Communication the way the entire project was

envisioned-with claims to offer speeds of up to 100 mbps to millions of users.

The ground reality after four years is that Reliance has around 65,000 broadband

customers as of March 2006!


Broadnet Services

There are no visible signs of the services' launch (Enterprise broadband

services are, however, available) even when Airtel and BSNL have lined up

aggressive expansion plans. Some prospective broadband customers Voice&Data

spoke to were clueless about the existence of Reliance's broadband services,

or Broadnet. The most shocking (and ridiculous) was the fact that prospective

customers were supposed to call up Mumbai customer care (022-30337777) to get

services anywhere in the country. Even customer care representatives were

clueless about the locations where Broadnet services are available. All Web

Worlds, renamed Reliance World, were equally clueless. (Reliance Worlds have all

the services being offered by Reliance Communications, and can, to some extent

be equated to Sify's dedicated chain of cyber cafes, but with a variety of

services like conferencing, e-ticketing etc).

IPTV Services

Apart from retail broadband, there is no clarity in the status of

Reliance's tie up with Microsoft to offer Next-Generation IPTV services.

Microsoft had offered its software platform combined with Alcatel's network

infrastructure, services integration and operational support. This was announced

exactly three years ago in 2003 but the trial, or pilot, continues without any

outcome. Part of the blame also

lies with Microsoft who promised to provide the software solution for IPTV

services to Reliance Communication. Bill Gates, during his last visit to India,

avoided a direct question asking about the status of Reliance's IPTV trials

and about the launch of services. Globally,

IPTV is far from being accepted as a mature technology. The total subscriber

numbers is below 3 mn and is mostly concentrated in Europe. Out of Microsoft's

12 partners, only Cablevision Mexico and Comcast have been able to launch IPTV

services till now. In a setback to Microsoft's IPTV plans, Telstra canceled

the field test in Australia. Last year, Swiscomm, on the other hand, also

postponed the commercial launch of its Bluewin TV service which was a major



lack of a viable business model appears to be one of the most important

reasons for the delay in going all out with its broadband services


Triple Play Dream

Home Netway: According to

the company's website, it is presently being tested at some 5,000

Reliance group houses. It plans to offer 100 mbps bandwidth and bring new

convergent experience of television, video, Internet and telephony. Home

Netway will deliver hundreds of television channels to millions of homes

through a multifunctional, digital set-top box. Designed and manufactured

in-house, the set-top box will have a 40 GB memory that can store nearly

10 hours of programming. It will enable users to experience functions such

as “pausing live TV ”, live and pre-programmed digital recording and

an electronic program guide. The Reliance patented remote control that

comes along with the set-top box is a marvel of design with multiple

functions-VoIP telephone handset, Karaoke microphone and keypad for

surfing the Net or typing e-mail.

The Reasons

According to the company's own admission in the investor presentation of

March 2006, the “initial focus will be enterprise,” probably seeing little

profitability in the retail business, given the low tariff and stiff competition

from BSNL who are offering services at a dirt cheap price. Clearly, lack of a

viable business model appears to be one of the most important reasons for the

delay in going all out with its broadband services.



Only 2 out of 12 partners have

started their services

Reliance Communications: The partnership for conducting trials of the
Microsoft TV IPTV Edition platform to deliver next-generation IP-based

television services, was announced on October 9, 2003. Microsoft TV

software was supposed to have enabled Reliance to leverage its nationwide

high-speed infrastructure to deliver a unique set of television services

and test the benefits to Indian households of Microsoft technologies such

as Windows Media 9 Series, Microsoft .NET, and Microsoft Windows Server


AT&T: Conducting


Bell Canada: Conducting trials

BellSouth: Conducting trials

BT: Conducting trials

Cablevision Mexico: Providing services (DVR, High-Definition TV,
video-on-demand, an Interactive Program Guide, and interactive games) to

subscribers since 2003

Cablevision Monterrey (Mexico): Conducting trials

Club Internet (the French subsidiary of T-Online International):
Conducting trials

Comcast Cable: Providing services (DVR and enhancements for

Deutsche Telekom: Conducting trials

Swisscom/Bluewin: Conducting trials

Telecom Italia: Conducting trials

Verizon Communications: Conducting tria


Numbers Say All

Top Broadband

Players (FY 05-06)



No of Subscribers








Bharti Airtel



Iqara Telecom


















Data Infosys




Total Subscribers


Source: V&D

Note: Reliance's numbers also include its corporate subscribers

The dilemma of whether to continue with a mix of CDMA and GSM, or to entirely

shift to GSM also had a role to play. As is obvious, all energies at Reliance

appear to be directed towards mobile services. If current news reports are

anything to go by, Reliance is planning to apply for license to operate GSM

services. Added to all this was the

split between the Ambani brothers, an important reason for delay due to the

transition time lost in handing over the communications business to ADAG.

According to sources, Reliance is looking at 2007 to launch its broadband

services. So it is time to wait for yet another year.

Sudesh Prasad