On Track: Wi-fi Video En­ter­tain­ment from Rlys

The Economic Times - - Economy: Macro, Micro & More - Ra­jat.Arora@ times­group.com

New Delhi: You could soon have video en­ter­tain­ment on trains to see you through long jour­neys. Video con­tent providers such as Vi­a­com18, Zee, Hungama and She­ma­roo are keen to bid for the rights to pro­vide video con­tent on 3,000 trains through wire­less in­tranet. The In­dian Rail­ways, un­der its non-fare rev­enue cell, has drawn up the plan to pro­vide video con­tent, in­clud­ing movies in all ma­jor In­dian lan­guages on all its pas­sen­ger trains.

Un­der the plan, pas­sen­gers will be able to watch the con­tent on their phones by log­ging on to the rail­ways’ lo­cal wi-fi net­work on­board.

Ac­cord­ing to the rail­ways, the com­pa­nies have evinced in­ter­est dur­ing the pre-bid con­fer­ences and will par­tic­i­pate in bid­ding next month as well.

The num­ber of trains will be di­vided into two equal pack­ages and the bid­ding will hap­pen in a phase-wise man­ner. The deal is likely to fetch the rail­ways nearly ₹ 500 crore an­nu­ally in non-fare rev­enue. “Al­most 24 such com­pa­nies have come for­ward. We will be charg­ing an an­nual li­cense fee from the suc­cess­ful bid­der,” a top rail­way of­fi­cial said.

The con­tract will be awarded for a pe­riod of five years. The of­fi­cial said since un­in­ter­rupted in­ter- net fa­cil­ity can­not be pro­vided on trains due to tech­no­log­i­cal chal­lenges and high cost, the plan to dis­sem­i­nate con­tent through lo­cal wi-fi in all coaches will work well.

“Ear­lier, we were ex­pect­ing over ₹ 1,000 crore an­nu­ally from this seg­ment. But after con­sul­ta­tion with stake­hold­ers, it was felt that the mar­ket was still not ripe. How­ever, we will eas­ily be able to get ₹ 500 crore with­out even spend­ing a penny as the suc­cess­ful bid­der will pro­vide the tech­nol­ogy and the equip­ment,” the of­fi­cial added.

A dis­tri­bu­tion box will be in­stalled in the coaches, which will be up­dated reg­u­larly. Pas­sen­gers will be able to con­sume con­tent on their own de­vices.

The con­tent-on-de­mand pro­ject falls un­der the rail­ways’ plan to boost non-fare rev­enue by sell­ing ad­ver­tis­ing spa­ces in­side and out­side trains and rail­way sta­tions, and brand­ing rights for sta­tions and trains, be­sides leas­ing out spa­ces for ATMs and shops.

The rail­ways sees ₹ 18,000-crore rev­enue po­ten­tial for these ini­tia­tives an­nu­ally. In the re­cently re­leased vol­ume two of the Eco­nomic Sur­vey 2016-17, it has been sug­gested that the rail­ways should fo­cus on such ini­tia­tives to boost rev­enue.

Rail­way min­is­ter Suresh Prabhu has set the tar­get to earn10% of to­tal rail rev­enue from such sources so that re­liance on freight and pas­sen­ger fares can be re­duced.

Cur­rently, the rail­ways earn only 3% of its to­tal rev­enue from non-fare sources as against the1520% av­er­age for rail­ways in de­vel­oped coun­ties.

ANIR­BAN BORA

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