GTPL Android box coming in two weeks, soft-launch done

The Android box will be launched as part of this year’s Festival Dhamaka

GTPL Hathway, one of the country’s largest cable feed providers, said it plans to launch its Android box by the end of this month or early next month.

“The hybrid box has been soft launched,” said Managing Director Anirudhsinh Jadeja. “There are around 1,500 boxes in the market.”

The box was originally set to be launched in 2018, but has seen its introduction delayed by several factors since then. First, it was impacted by the border clashes between India and China, and then, by COVID restrictions and chip shortage.

GTPL customers have been waiting for the launch of the box so that they can manage both linear TV and on-demand TV using the same remote controller.

At present, customers of GTPL’s cable TV service have to use at least two remote controllers to manage their channels and VoD. In case they own a smart TV, they have to use the set-top-box remote controller for changing TV channels, and the smart TV remote controller for watching on-demand content. In case they don’t own a smart TV, they have to use three remote controllers for switching from VoD to linear TV and vice versa.

For GTPL and its partner cable operators, the introduction of the Android box is crucial to prevent customers from migrating to rival services such as Reliance Jio’s Jio Fiber.

Jio Fiber offers an integrated experience, with a single remote controller enabling the user to watch traditional TV, app-based entertainment and services such as video calling.

Jadeja, who started his entrepreneurial journey as a small cable operator, said the soft launch of the box is being used to study customer behavior and test the technical readiness of the service.

Like Reliance Jio, the box will come with GTPL’s own customized Android software, and is unlikely to support Google Play Store, though the company has not revealed the finer details of the product.

From all indications, GTPL Hathway is likely to follow the lead of Reliance Jio, which does not allow the user to install any app on the box unless Reliance Jio already has an agreement with the maker of that app for sharing the revenue.

In case of Jio, modified apps such as Hotstar and Zee5 are allowed on to the Jio Fiber box, but the subscription charge for these services is routed through Jio.

Jadeja said his company is trying to bring as many app-based platforms on board the company’s distribution platform as possible. The company is studying what all products consumers are interested in taking up.

The final launch, he said, will be part of GTPL’s Festival Dhamaka offer this year, and final prices — such as monthly charges and upgrade fees, will be revealed closer to launch.

The company is yet to decide whether to offer its Android box only to those who have taken its broadband connections, or whether to offer it to all its cable TV customers. It is possible that the company may start off by offering the box only to its broadband+cable customers.

GTPL has around 7.5 million cable TV customers, and around 0.75 million broadband subscribers — mostly in Gujarat.

Company officials seemed to indicate that the box will be made available up to all users, if not at launch, then later on.

They pointed out that opening up the box to all users will also give the company information about which of their customers are using non-GTPL broadband connections, and they can then offer these customers attractive plans to have them switch over to the company’s broadband service.

The company also said it has no plans to increase its broadband prices. The company generates Rs 440 per month per customer, which is on the lower side compared to service providers like Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and even BSNL.

However, said company officials, they are quite happy with the pricing, as the company is able to generate an operating profit of around 40% despite pricing its service affordably.