Star TV and Asian internet service provider (ISP) Pacific Internet (PacNet) are in talks about forming a joint venture to launch internet services in India according to local press reports.

According to Indian daily The Economic Times, Star and PacNet - a US-listed company which is 42% owned by Singapore's SembCorp Industries - would each take stakes of about 37% in the three-way joint venture with Singapore's Thakral Brothers holding the remaining 26%. Initially the company would offer dial-up internet access, to be followed by content services, all under the Star brand name.

The venture would be a valuable outlet for Star's content in what is one of Asia's fastest growing internet markets. India has only 1.5 million internet connections at present but this could grow to about 35 million by 2008 according to industry estimates.

Star recently secured another outlet in India for its content by paying about $75m for a 26% stake in Indian cable operator Hathway Cable and Datacom Private. The move gives Star access to a broadband network - reaching about 2.5 million homes in the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh - capable of delivering both internet services and cable TV.

The Hathway deal also gives Star a platform to compete with Indian rival Zee. Star lost its foothold in the Indian cable sector in October last year when it sold a 50% stake in its Zee joint venture back to the Indian broadcaster. Zee owns cable operator SitiCable and is planning to build a hybrid fibre optic-coaxial cable network in about 23 Indian cities (Screendaily, June 20).