Video services

UTStarcom Rolls IPTV in India

After seeing some IPTV success in China and Japan, UTStarcom Inc. (Nasdaq: UTSI) is heading to India, where Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) is ready to launch its telco TV service using the vendor's video delivery systems.

On a conference call with analysts last week, UTStarcom chief financial officer Fran Barton noted the start of the deployment in India, without referring to Bharti by name: Even though the engagement was announced more than 18 months ago, Barton talked only about an IPTV deployment with "one of the largest private operators" in India. (See Bharti Watches UTStarcom for IPTV.)

It's an important step, because executives cite UTStarcom's end-to-end IPTV offering, RollingStream, as one of the linchpins of the firm's financial recovery. And while UTStarcom has had some success in China, the projects available in India represent a faster deployment ramp-up.

In China, UTStarcom started with trials of a few thousand homes at a time, building to what's now a 310,000-subscriber audience. "In India, it's different. They start you off bigger," to the tune of a 120,000-subscriber launch for Bharti, says Brian Caskey, UTStarcom vice president of marketing.

Bharti marks UTStarcom's second IPTV project in India. The first is a three-year deal announced in May with Aksh Optifibre Ltd. , which itself has a seven-year agreement to run an IPTV service for Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd. (MTNL) . (See MTNL's IPTV Sparks Regulatory Debate.)

UTStarcom is fighting to regain profitability after going through a tough period that's included the requisite stock options investigation. (See UTStarcom Readies Plan B.)

Part of the company's recovery plan will involve picking which technologies to emphasize, Barton said on the call, and IPTV would seem to be near the top of the list, as it "has been the most exciting area of our broadband solutions portfolio," he said. (See UTStarcom Readies Plan B.)

Even so, IPTV is a "small part of the revenue," Caskey says, although he won't specify how small. "I would say it's one of the fastest growing parts of the business."

UTStarcom offers an "end-to-end" IPTV package, as do others, including Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), Nokia Networks , and Nortel Networks Ltd. . (See Nortel Eyes IPTV Prospects, Ericsson: Tandberg Is Key to IPTV, Ericsson, Nortel Push on IPTV, Alcatel-Lucent Updates on IPTV, and NSN Wins IPTV Deal.)

But rather than surround itself with partners, UTStarcom provides everything itself, from the video headend down to the set-top box.

That includes software. UTStarcom owns its own IPTV middleware and offers its own digital rights management (DRM) technology. While the company is willing to bring in partners for certain pieces -- some carriers are already wedded to certain headends or DRM, for instance -- it's able to supply most of an IPTV network on its own, except for routers and Ethernet switches.

Some of the technology came from the 2003 acquisition of a startup called RollingStreams, a name UTStarcom eventually coopted for the whole IPTV package, dropping the previous mVision brand. (See UTStarcom Nabs RollingStreams, Xebeo and UTStarcom Rolls With New IPTV Name.)

Building an entire IPTV suite sounds like a lot of trouble, but Caskey says UTStarcom didn't have much choice. UTStarcom customer SoftBank BB Corp. was interested in IPTV, and UTStarcom couldn't find the right partners for an end-to-end play. (See Softbank Focuses on UTStarcom's mVision.)

"This was a good four years ago. Nobody at that time was really keen on our thought or intent -- which was all IP and streaming. Most people at the time were about download-and-play, to the set-top box," Caskey says.

Lots of carriers use a single systems integrator for IPTV, but a single vendor for all the pieces?

"In Asia it's an advantage, because they're a strongly Asian company, they have the right contacts and the right approvals to get deployed. Once they get deployed, other guys see this as the path of least resistance and go to them," says Colin Dixon, an analyst with The Diffusion Group (TDG) .

Dixon is enthusiastic about UTStarcom's IPTV achievements so far, but he admits the company has pretty much no IPTV presence in the United States or Western Europe. "I see them being very successful in Asia, but they haven't penetrated at all in the West," Dixon says.

For now, UTStarcom doesn't care. "I could win all of America, and I still wouldn't have this market share," Caskey says.

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:04:25 PM
re: UTStarcom Rolls IPTV in India One of the biggest hurdles they'll face, at least in North America, is just being UTStarcom. No offense to them, but that's not a name associated with end-to-end anything over here, and certainly not with software items like middleware and DRM.

But they could get some crediblity all this work in Asia. IPTV is new enough that everyone is having stumbles at first (Microsoft), and the experience of real-world deployments is invaluable.
Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 3:04:21 PM
re: UTStarcom Rolls IPTV in India Guess they've decided to get their share of publicity out of this IPTV stuff:

UTStarcom Boasts Chinese IPTV

Harbin does seem to be the showcase deployment for them so far. Colin Dixon was pointing it out when we talked; he included some details about it in a report on IPTV in general
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