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China Pursues IPTV as Key Growth Strategy

Technological innovations are rapidly redrawing the Chinese telco landscape. Operators seem compelled to diversify in order to thrive in the competitive environment. Is that a wise decision?

The November 2006 announcement of Jiangsu Telecom's network expansion effort to meet subscribers' demand for IPTV, VOD, and other advanced IP services was just the latest in a similar series of moves to support multi-play service offerings.

According to ABI Research broadband analyst Serene Fong, "More operators than ever are offering multiple services in an attempt to retain customers and to increase revenue. Telecom operators are venturing into the TV industry, while cable operators move into the voice business."

IPTV is the Chinese government's platform of choice because it is aligned to its long-term plan of unifying broadband, Internet, and television. Hence the future of the industry continues to be viewed optimistically. More resources will also be allocated to making IPTV a success because it is to play an important role in multimedia communications and upcoming major events in China.

According to Fong, "The growth of IPTV will remain modest for now, and take off only after 2008. Adoption will be boosted by major events such as the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and then the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai."

At the same time, China's flourishing broadband environment paves the way for IPTV to reach out to the potentially huge addressable market. In a new study, ABI Research forecasts the IPTV take-up in mainland China to pass the 23 million subscriber mark by 2012.

For now, however, IPTV has to cope with certain bottlenecks that have been restricting growth. "While the IPTV service is regarded by the industry as a potential revenue generator, lack of content may prove a short-term barrier to increasing uptake rapidly," says Fong.

"Current program content, which is strictly controlled by Chinese media authorities and the government, is not rich enough to attract paying users, and overseas content, which is restricted and difficult to get approval for, does not help alleviate the situation."

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