Internet protocol television is forecast to reach over 16 million users in China by the end of the decade.

Uncertainty of regulations, insufficient hardware platforms, an immature value chain and unclear business models are the main concerns or prospective operators, according to a report from Analysys International. Nevertheless, they forecast 1.1 million users by the end of 2005, 2.9 million the following year, with rapid growth in 2007 and 2008 to reach 16.7 million by the end of 2009.

Such figures suggest that the consensus of analyst forecasts of between 25 and 30 million IPTV subscribers worldwide by the end of the decade may be somewhat cautious.

The report points out that strict regulation on content resources in the media industry and rampant piracy of domestic content make it difficult to predict the nature of the IPTV market in China. The report suggests that compared with media companies, telecom operators have advantages in deploying IPTV systems.

Meanwhile, China Telecom and China Netcom are pressing ahead with commercial trials of IPTV, expanding to over 20 cities and provinces. Both operators have partnered with Shanghai Media Group. SMG received an IPTV licence from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Advertising, SARFT, in April 2005.

Representatives of China Netcom and SMG will be among the speakers at the IPTV Asia Forum conference taking place in Hong Kong at the end of November, together with a number of successful IPTV operators from across Asia.