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Does it make sense to buy security camera subscriptions with DTH and broadband?

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 01-08-2022 Vishal Mathur

What would be your preferred method to improve home security? You can go the whole hog (this will require intricate installation) with motion sensors and alarms in your security cameras.

There are two types of these — indoor and outdoor. They’ll wirelessly connect with your home Wi-Fi or a 4G dongle, and stream a live feed to an app on your phone or PC. The smarter cameras can also detect motion, faces, pets and configurable activity zones, a lot of which is dependent on artificial intelligence (AI).

There are plenty of choices, but the complicated question is – what’s the best route to buy a security camera setup for your home? Purchase (from Amazon or a nearby store, perhaps), most likely self-install and access a connected app (albeit with an optional subscription for some features)? Or go the full-fledged subscription route and add these to your broadband or direct-to-home (DTH) TV connections, and possibly get more features too?

Home security as a bundle

The latter is a method which is becoming common. Bharti Airtel, which has the Xstream broadband service, bundles home security cameras under the Airtel XSafe umbrella. “All a customer needs to activate this smart monitoring system is a stable Wi-Fi connection and a plug point to power the camera,” an Airtel spokesperson told HT.

There are two outdoor cameras and one indoor camera that buyers can choose from. Airtel says the entire solution is created in-house and the functionality is deployed on their own cloud platform. The functionality portfolio includes AI-based person and object detection, high-definition video streaming, a two-way talk option, live recording, perimeter zoning and motion detection.

“Customers can access live view and recorded videos anytime, anywhere on the XSafe app, available both on IOS and Android platforms, and unlock the content repository stored safely on Airtel Cloud,” the Airtel spokesperson added. Will this work with other broadband connections too? Yes, XSafe camera subscriptions will work with any broadband line and are not restricted to Airtel’s Xstream broadband.

Leading DTH company Tata Play’s Secure+ subscription brings Google’s Nest cameras to India for the first time alongside Nest Aware monitoring suite. “This new offering is in line with our endeavor to provide experiences beyond entertainment,” says Pallavi Puri, chief commercial and content officer at Tata Play.

However, unlike Airtel’s solution that plays well with all broadband lines, Tata Play Secure+ needs an active DTH connection to work. We reached out to Tata Play for clarity on whether anyone who doesn’t have an active DTH connection buy the Secure+ subscription, but our queries remain unanswered.

Another revenue stream to unlock ARPUs?

Though it’s a small market and still niche, estimates peg a rapid growth in this sector. By 2026, India is expected to have 25.5 million active households with home security solutions (up from 9.9 million in 2022), according to estimates by research firm Statista. The ‘smart home’ push will drive up revenue too, with average household expense on smart tech in home security expected to touch $74.54 (around 6,000) in the next few years.

For DTH companies, the need of the hour is to widen subscription products to boost earnings per user, as the core business of linear TV subscriptions is under pressure from on-demand streaming platforms and OTT services. Airtel and Tata Play, for instance, bundle OTT subscriptions including Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ Hotstar, woven with linear TV packs.

They are also betting on affordability to retain customers — as many as 20 million cable and DTH subscriptions were cancelled in India in the last two years. Tata Play, earlier this year, had voluntarily begun downgrading DTH subscriptions for most of their 19 million subscribers, removing packs and channels they don’t watch, translating into savings of much as 100 per month.

The telecom industry, including 4G mobile and wired broadband, has been under pressure to boost average revenue per user (ARPUs). For the quarter ending March, Airtel reported ARPUs of 178, while rivals Reliance Jio ( 167.6) and Vi ( 124) follow.

Extra tech at your fingertips

Google’s AI dependent Nest cameras bring extensive functionality. First, these are battery powered, which means they run even in the case of a power outage. Familiar face detection, once configured, will prevent false alarm notifications, HDR and night vision, and configurable activity zones.

“These deliver a great experience thanks to our deep innovations in on-device machine learning, an intuitive user experience, and the highest level of privacy and security that gives people complete control over the information they share,” says Saurabh Arya, chief of hardware business development (India & South Asia) at Google.

The convenience of end-to-end: A big advantage?

For consumers opting for home security bundles from Airtel and Tata Play, there’s the promise of end-to-end service. This is where other brands will likely be at a disadvantage. Tata Play confirms they will manage the installation, maintenance, and after sales services for Nest subscriptions – not to forget companion apps that’ll allow you to live stream, access past feeds and configure the cameras. So does Airtel for XSafe, including camera selection assistance too.

If you are to buy home security cameras from brands including Xiaomi, Godrej, and Qubo (but not limited to just these three), the installation part is mostly left to you — all make the promise of easy installation by simply plugging the camera into an electrical socket, but for outdoor camera installations in particular, isn’t always that simple (there’s drilling to be done and wiring to be threaded carefully).

Question of cost

This is where an outright purchase saves some money, but not all pieces of the jigsaw are covered (such as professional installation). Xiaomi’s camera range starts at 1,799 though the cameras you may really want to buy are priced upwards of 3,199. Qubo’s range is priced from around 2,890.

In comparison, Airtel’s XSafe cameras are priced upwards of 2,499 with a 99 per month subscription for access to all the cloud functionality and multi device access. This outlay isn’t entirely dissimilar to purchasing a camera from a store, but there’s that cost you pay as subscription for the convenience and additional functionality as part of the larger suite. You will pay a stiff(er) premium for the Google Nest Cam, which is priced at 11,999 and the Nest Aware subscription that’s priced at 3,000 per month.

It does feel that Airtel and Tata Play may have landed on a category that’s ripe for growth in the coming years, and one that potential buyers will want convenience attached to. These subscription models potentially deliver on that requirement too.

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