The government of mainland China has formulated a general plan to launch triple-play services, integrating telecom networks, broadcast and TV networks, and Internet together.
From 2010 to 2012, China will focus on the trial integration of broadcast and TV services and telecom services (including Internet services), dealing with any related policies. From 2013 to 2015, based on the trial experience, China will promote the integration nationwide.
In the coming five years, various sectors will prepare in different ways to meet the goals stated in the general plan. Telecom operators such as China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom will invest more to promote IPTV services and accelerate FTTX deployment. Meanwhile, broadcast and TV operators will accelerate cable-TV network integration and interactive TV services development and will more actively develop value-added Internet services.
Broadcast and TV operators are currently strong in video content and wireless broadcast, while telecom operators own two-way fixed-line networks, mobile networks, and Internet services.
The differences between broadcast and TV operators across different regions and the uneven distribution of telecom fixed-line networks and mobile networks can offer cooperation opportunities.
Notably, almost all provinces of China already have launched IPTV services. The total number of IPTV service users in China has exceeded 5 million. However, problems with IPTV content must be solved, and the price for IPTV services also needs to be lowered to attract more users and compete with digital TV.
Meanwhile, the transformation of cable-TV networks from one way to two way has been sped up. Two-way cable-TV networks now cover over 24 million users. In the coming three years, broadcast and TV operators will invest over US$5 billion to continue to change 100 million one-way cable-TV links into two-way cable TV.
Eventually, through cable-TV networks, broadcast and TV operators hope to run Internet access services. This has been in trial use in some provinces. In order to run Internet access services, however, broadcast and TV operators need to rent bandwidth from telecom operators, greatly increasing the potential cost of service.
Another aspect of the triple play involves the conversion of mobile services to triple play. Mobile-phone TV is an emerging service in China. Up to now, mobile-phone TV services based on the China Multimedia Mobile Broadcasting (CMMB) standard have reached 1.5 million users. However, the current CMMB standard only supports one-way communication. So the users can only receive broadcast-TV programs via mobile.
On the other hand, mobile services based on the broadcast multicast Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (MBMS) standard serve about 200,000 users. The growing 3G user base will convert to the MBMS standard. Additionally, the government policy will affect the mobile-phone TV market too. So it is not clear yet which mobile-phone TV standard will dominate the industry in the future.