China Telecom and China Netcom yesterday called for the deregulation of the
IPTV (Internet Protocol TV) market, which could give a major boost to the
broadband Internet business of these two fixed-line carriers.
"There is an ongoing worldwide deregulation trend in IPTV. However, it's not
happening in China," said Wei Leping, China Telecom's chief engineer.
Wei complained that regulators so far allow China Telecom offer IPTV
commercial services in only six cities, preventing it from reaching millions of
potential customers across the country.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Broadband World Forum
Asia 2007, which opened in Beijing yesterday, China Netcom Chairman Zhang
Chunjiang said he hopes to offer IPTV services "in every city in China", but
this can only happen when the government gives the green light.
An IPTV booth at a Shanghai exhibition. Jing
China Telecom and China Netcom have both built trial IPTV networks in a
number of cities, but are unable to sign up commercial users without getting the
nod from regulators.
The two firms hope that IPTV can provide them with a major source of
broadband revenue, but broadcasting authorities are concerned that IPTV could
hurt cable TV operators.
In December 2005, the broadcasting authorities in Quanzhou, in East China's
Fujian Province, ordered the closure of an IPTV service jointly run by China
Telecom and Shanghai Media Group (SMG), despite the fact that SMG had been
granted a license to operate the service by the State Administration of Radio,
Film and Television.
Wei said he expected to see the further "convergence" of telephone, Internet
and cable TV networks.
But this convergence has sparked conflicts of interest between broadcasting
and telecoms groups, which has also delayed the introduction of China's telecoms
The law, drafting of which started in the 1980s, is expected to offer a
regulatory framework for network convergence.
Industry observers do not expect the law to be passed before March next year.
"The overlapping responsibilities and different goals of broadcasting
regulators and communications regulators have restricted" the development of
Triple TV, said Wu Hequan, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Triple TV is an industry term describing the ability to offer voice, data and
video across fixed and mobile telephone networks, Internet networks and cable TV
China Telecom has 210,000 IPTV subscribers with 150,000 in Shanghai. China
Netcom has more than 140,000 users.
Market research firm In-Stat predicts that China will have about 4.5 million
IPTV subscribers by 2008.
(China Daily 06/06/2007 page14)