In yet another setback to China’s efforts to converge cable and telecom, the state broadcast regulator has begun a probe into unauthorized IPTV services.
The State Administration of Radio Film & TV (SARFT) issued a notice on April 12 ordering “investigation and prosecution” into IPTV services being broadcast without its approval, mainland website 21CN reported on the weekend.
SARFT said telecom operators that had begun offering unauthorized IP services had “seriously harmed national network information security.” It ordered its provincial branches to close the services down and to investigate telcos who offered the service.
The inquiry would mean that IPTV services in eastern seaboard provinces such as Guangdong, Fujian and Zhejiang would be forced to stop. It would also affect 22 provinces which had already had obtained IPTV licenses, the report said.
China has approximately four million IPTV users, mostly with China Telecom, which has offered the service on a “trial” basis for several years.
But growth has been stymied by turf wars between the cable and telecom sectors and by China’s convoluted system of content regulation.
A source from Beijing Gehua CATV Co. Ltd said the move showed that the growth of telco IPTV services were “already impacting” cable operators’ plans to offer HD TV services.
Telcos need four permits to offer IPTV - a “network culture operational permit,” an “internet content provider permit,” a “mobile VAS permit” and a “network broadcast audio-visual program permit,” sina.com said.
The last, known informally as an IPTV license, is issued by SARFT. To date it has granted just seven permits to state broadcasters such as CCTV and the Shanghai Media Group.
Operators who want to launch an IPTV service need to partner with a company holding an IPTV license.
In February SARFT ordered an IPTV trial by Guangxi Telecom to shut down – just weeks after State Council had called for the “acceleration” of convergence between the cable, telecom and internet sectors.
Since the State Council decision, MIIT and SARFT have been in discussions over where IPTV trials will be held.