M'sia gets second IPTV provider

Astro, Malaysia's only satellite TV operator, partners Time dotCom to avail its Internet Protocol TV service to 167,000 homes by end-2011. Collaboration a win-win for both companies, says analyst.

KUALA LUMPUR--Malaysia's first pay and only satellite TV operator Astro has launched its Internet Protocol television (IPTV) service in collaboration with broadband service provider Time dotCom (TdC).

The inking of the deal will enable Astro to offer subscribers its offerings--content comprising over 100 standard definition channels, 12 high-definition (HD) channels and video-on-demand service, as well as features such as personal video recorder--all of which will be powered by TdC's 100 percent fiber infrastructure.

While not the first IPTV player in Malaysia--Telekom Malaysia (TM) made its IPTV debut in March 2010--the partnership will help Astro reach a substantial part of the market that it has not otherwise been able to penetrate.

At a launch event here Wednesday, Astro CEO Rohana Rozhan said Astro's priority is to deliver its HD content dubbed Astro B.yond to about 320,000 customers living in centralized multiple dwelling units (MDUs).

"Not all our customers currently are able to receive Astro B.yond using our existing satellite infrastructure," she noted. "With this collaboration, Astro B.yond IPTV will be progressively available to 167,000 homes in 730 MDUs in Klang Valley and Penang by year-end."

When asked if the deal between Astro and TdC was exclusive, Rohana replied that only the initial tie-up was, after which, Astro would be open to partner any fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) provider as long as the partner is able to meet its "stringent criteria". These criteria include the ability to provide a 100 percent end-to-end fiber link into the premises and ensure the links have a capacity of up to 100Mbps, she explained.

"Our partnership with Time is exclusive only to the 730 MDUs that we've jointly identified," said Rohana. "Moving forward, we are looking at other providers to work with as long as they can meet our requirements.

TdC CEO Afzal Abdul Rahim, who was also at the launch, said: "With our fiber network in place, we are able to provide up to 30Mbps surfing speeds and still be able to support up to two decoders in one premise giving our customers the ability to stream a few HD videos simultaneously without any interruptions."

Good tie-up, prospects
According to Adeel Najam, senior industry analyst at Frost & Sullivan's Asia-Pacific ICT practice, the deal between Astro and TdC is a win-win as both companies stood to benefit positively from the alliance.

In a phone interview with ZDNet Asia, Najam said Astro is already a dominant player in the pay TV space and has the ability to provide high quality premium content, which no other player has been able to do in Malaysia.

"The deal is good because Astro has the content while TdC has the broadband infrastructure," he explained, adding the tie up will help break new ground for both companies.

Noting that a satellite platform lacks the interactivity and has limited capacity compared to an IPTV system, the analyst said another plus point for Astro's IPTV foray is that it will be able to migrate more subscribers onto a more advanced system in future.

"There is only so much Astro can do with a satellite TV infrastructure as it is not future-proof," Najam pointed out. "[With IPTV], it would be able to migrate to a more advanced system in five to 10 years."

Najam added that with Astro's entry into the pay TV market, incumbent TM would be more vigilant and aggressive about getting better content for its own high-speed broadband network dubbed UniFi.

"The launch won't severely affect TM's strategy but I suspect that it would try much harder to get premium content," he said. "TM has so far done well in rolling out its UniFi service but the challenge really is to get more premium content as this remains the key to making IPTV and its take-up a success."