Interview With Prasanna Gokhale, CTO, ACT Fibernet

ACT Fibernet is India’s third largest wired broadband service provider with more than 1.4 million customers in the company’s 18 operational cities. Recently the Bengaluru-headquartered FTTH firm has forayed into OTT product space by launching a 4K streaming device that can be attached to a TV and users can consume all sorts of content -from Live TV to sports, movies, games and other entertainment applications. During the launch of the product in Bengaluru, we caught up with Prasanna Gokhale, the CTO of ACT Fibernet and the man behind the streaming device to understand the market dynamics, the company’s future plans and what the product means for customers. Excerpts :

 

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Prasanna Gokhale, CTO, ACT Fibernet

Q. ACT Fibernet has been a services player, why did this shift to a product market? What is the rationale behind launching this streaming device?

A. We have been a broadband Fibernet to the home (FTTH) service provider for many years now. And we are seeing that consumer behaviour in depending on the internet has been changing drastically in the last few years. It has evolved from a luxury item 10 years back to a ‘necessity’ now. Similarly, the content as well the medium it is being consumed is also changing. Though internet is still being used primarily for work related stuffs, over last couple of years or so, a major chunk of internet data is being driven by entertainment related content. We have also noticed that screen size of a device greatly impacts the user experience. Though number of smartphones are much more than the TVs, users get best viewing experience on large screens.

These customers do subscribe to many applications, OTTs to watch content like sports, movies etc but they prefer to watch it on big screens like TVs compared to smartphones or computers and laptops.

So, we thought to expand our services by providing our customers a medium that will enable them to watch their favourite content on TVs. The product we launched today is an expansion of our service and hence not a shift from our core business. We want offer our customers the best experience – be it in the services or products.

India is a huge market with enormous opportunities yet to be tapped which gives a comfortzone to multiple players to coexist in the same space – Prasanna Gokhale, CTO, ACT Fibernet

Q. You entered into a space which is primarily dominated by Amazon Fire TV Stick. What sort of competition you see in this area?

A. I think the Indian market is huge and at present very few people have streaming devices. Primarily consumers in metros and tier 1 cities do have such devices and this offers us a big opportunity. The Fire TV Stick has been there for couple of years now and still there is a huge gap to filled. Also, different products come with different USPs and features. For example Amazon Fire TV Stick has HDR but we offer 4K, so this gives us a new set of customers. Hence I believe the market I huge and there is enough space for all of us to coexist.

Q. ACT Fibernet is present in 18 cities but if you look at TRAI data, the company is adding around 10,000 customers a month. Looking at the potential the country offers, this number does not look every impressive. Why is this so?

A. If you look at the TRAI data that is published every month, in wired broadband space, we are the third largest service provider behind BSNL and Airtel. That apart we are also the fastest growing player in that segment. We are putting all our efforts to add more customers, we are expanding our presence to new cities on a constant basis and we are also trying to add more value to our customers in our service offerings. The launch of the streaming device is a step in that direction.

Q. Lastly, is this new streaming device that you launched today will be offered as a standalone product independent of the broadband service or it will exclusively with ACT Fibernet broadband services?

A.  Technically, it is possible to offer it as a standalone product. But as of now, it will only work with our broadband connection but in future we might look at the other way.

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