Thursday, September 18, 2014

BREAKING. Altech Node launches in South Africa as brand-new video-on-demand (VOD) consumer console to compete with DStv, VIDI.

Altech is launching the Altech Node in the suddenly white hot video-on-demand (VOD) market with South African consumers and TV viewers who will be able to buy the VOD console, using MultiChoice's DStv dish, from Friday at R3 499, and giving access to 700 hours of entertainment.

The launch of Altech's Node comes a week after the launch of Times Media Group's VIDI with Node viewers who won't suffer buffering issues like VIDI and who will also be able to watch the latest movie releases as well as library TV shows.

Altech didn't release a list of the TV programming and movies available at launch and didn't respond with a list to a media enquiry seeking a list on Thursday.

(Altech didn't make the Node device available for testing ahead of the launch to national TV critics who were not invited to, nor told of, the launch event on Thursday evening).

With MultiChoice's DStvBoxOffice on the one side of the spectrum, Times Media Group's VIDI on the other side and Altech's Node in the middle of the existing - and suddenly exploding - VOD market, South African consumers and viewers suddenly have a lot more choices and options.

Like DStv BoxOffice on the DStv Explora and HD PVR the content on the Node console is updated through satellite and stored on the 1TB internal hard drive and viewable in 1080p high definition (HD).

Unlike VIDI, Node users won't have to pay for massive internet downloads to watch the actual video content.

Like DStv Catch Up and unlike VIDI, the Node includes video-on-demand sports content (80 episodes at launch). It's not live sports content but packaged content.

Node will have 200 hours of TV series at launch, 140 movies at launch, 150 hours of kids programming, 150 hours of documentaries, and 30 hours of current affairs programming that can be watched instantly.

Altech's Node will carry 7 to 10 new movie titles per month at any given time available for rent, as well as 100 titles per year.

In the subscription library there will be 140 movie titles which are available to watch at any time and which doesn't require an additional payment. These will be refreshed at a rate of 10% to 15% per month, says Altech in a press release.

Altech's Node will work with any TV set that has HDMI ports, and the Node console itself has 3 HDMI ports.

Besides the R3 499 cost of the console which includes free installation and which people will be able to buy from Friday at Altech Autopage Cellular, Cell C, Dion Wired, Game, Hifi Corporation, Hirsch's, Incredible Connection, JetMart, Makro and Pick n Pay Hyper, there is a monthly subscription fee of R299.

This R299 monthly subscription fee gives the user access to the majority of the library content on the Node which regularly is cycled through and replaced just like on DStv BoxOffice on DStv PVR decoders.

Similar to the licensing rights agreements of DStv and DStv BoxOffice and VIDI, Altech has licencing rights agreements with Hollywood studios which include Sony, Disney, MGM and Universal.

On the Node the latest blockbuster movies cost R25, compared to the R27 for DStv BoxOffice and R27 for VIDI. This R25 will be in addition to the R299 monthly subscription fee.

Like DStv BoxOffice and VIDI, a movie on Node remains available for a 48 hour period to watch.

Older movie titles on Altech's Node will cost R15.

Subscription and rentals of and through the Altech Node can be paid by using debit and credit cards or Altech's Eyenza wallet.

Older non high definition (HD) content will have a higher bit rate on Altech's Node says the company "to ensure the content still looks great in an HD screen".

"Sound is delivered through 5.1 Dolby. YouTube videos will stream at a minimum of 720p resolution".

"Node is much more than video-on-demand," says Craig Venter, Altech CEO, saying that Altech's Node is "like a DVD store in your home".

"It is an entertainment hub, a streaming server, a Wi-Fi hotspot, an e-commerce platform".

"It is the most sophisticated home gateway in the world and is a true reflection of Altech's mission to provide its customers with value-added products, services and solutions through the convergence of telecommunications, multimedia and information technology".

Movies and library TV series will be updated monthly as older content is replaced with new releases and other TV shows.

The Altech Node come with a built-in 3G modem which enables users to buy data, airtime and pre-paid electricity and pay for municipal services like Eskom and Telkom through using the device.

The Node also allows for consumers to download Android apps, access the internet, access their email and to control certain home appliances through what Altech calls "Node branded Smart Plugs".

Altech's Node comes with a built-in media player, MyMedia, which allows content to be played off other devices, such as the Altech Node branded USB flash drive.

The Node's Wi-Fi- functionality also enables an environment to be turned into a Wi-Fi hotspot where up to 5 devices like the TV set, computer, smartphone and tablet can be connected to stream content to these devices.

Node users who have DStv or had DStv won't need to install a new satellite dish since Altech's Node makes use of the same Intelsat-20 satellite, which means that a existing DStv dish is already aligned.

Although installation cost is included in the R3 499 price, Altech says the Node is easy to install. "Users can do it themselves, even with the most rudimentary technical skills, and install their own automation and security equipment".

Users will have to pay for the data used of the internet return path which enables the rental of titles and on demand content.

"Node has been designed to connect to both Wi-Fi and ethernet networks," says Altech. "Node can also function as a wireless internet access point or hotspot, providing connectivity through its 3G modem. Node does not consume data for movie and series downloads but will consume data for internet access activity and any purchases made".

Node can access the internet through its 3G modem which Altech says is powered by Autopage Cellular. "However you will need a SIM card and your data cost will be in addition to the Node subscription".

"While there are other products currently on the market that offer aspects of Smart TV and video-on-demand content, Node is the first comercially available product that offers a complete, integrated package, incorporating elements of Smart TV and smart entertainment together with a smart home solution," says Altech.

As to why Altech chose satellite downloading like MultiChoice does with DStv BoxOffice to the DStv Explora and HD PVR, Altech says "even though fibre internet is fast and exciting, it is also a new arrival to the South African market".

The Altech Node is however fbire ready with an ethernet and USB modem port.

"Fibre internet is still expensive and can consume a lot of data, which may lead to excessive data costs depending on the customer's internet service provider package. By employing cost-effective and reliable satellite systems, Node can ensure content that is always available for instant play without any time-delays and costly surprises".