On Wednesday, Netflix announced its arrival in India (and 129 other countries). Four days on, the euphoria and confusion surrounding the globally popular on-demand video streaming service has hardly abated. As many queued up to register and watch their favourite films and television shows legally, a common question is whether the subscription fee is worthwhile.

Netflix provides unlimited access to its huge library of movies, television shows and other content for a monthly pass. In India, the cost of these passes ranges from Rs 500 for a standard plan to Rs 800 for Ultra HD access, which allows users to watch content on multiple screens.

The fresh-from-the-kitchen hype and Twitter humour aside, there are big question marks over the kind of reception the service will receive from the public. Many in India who signed up for the service on the first day complained about the limited catalogue, while others who got hooked on to a show realised that their broadband bandwidth limit wasn’t enough to buffer the large High Definition files.

While India now has 400 million users online and is the fastest growing Internet market, Netflix is unlikely to have it easy in a country which comes with its own set of logistical problems including low bandwidth, lack of reliable high-speed internet and price sensitivity of consumers who are, at times, too used to downloading through torrents.

So far, the company doesn’t seem to have formulated a strategy to tackle any of these issues as evidenced from its pricing which, as many point out, is not much cheaper than it is in the US – its largest market. Other international services such as Apple Music have traditionally priced their services lower in nascent markets.

So, should you sign up for Netflix in India? Here are a few factors to consider:

Content woes

Websites such as Finder.com have already compiled a snapshot of what’s available in the US and Indian libraries of Netflix, and the contrast is stark. As much as 93% of the content accessible to US users is not yet available in India, which could well deter fans of international films and TV shows. Another website Allflicks.com also made a similar observation. After compiling the total number of titles available in the two countries, it concluded that there were only 765 listings on the Indian version while the US catalogue had 5,661 entries.

The bigger problem, however, will be local content. With India’s century-old film industry producing the largest number of films in the world, the lack of local content on offer is not likely to impress those who are looking to substitute their cinema-going experience with Netflix’s legal streaming, as opposed to downloading from illegal torrents sites or file sharing networks which have often come under the regulatory scanner.

Hidden costs

While Rs 650 per month for an unlimited HD content service doesn’t sound too steep, the real cost of Netflix for Indian consumers is going to be reflected in their internet bills. Most Internet providers in the country have a Fair Usage Policy in place, limiting the bandwidth after a pre-specified threshold of Internet usage has been crossed.

A 2 MB per second speed plan could cost anywhere between Rs 500-Rs 2,500 in the country depending on the service provider, but it also comes with a cap on high speed data. For instance, Airtel 3G provides 20 GB of data at high speeds for Rs 2,200 a month, after which the speed comes down to a very sluggish 80 kbps, making any kind of video viewing a horrendous experience.

Another problem is that despite the country’s vast online population, India mostly functions on second-generation or 2G internet speeds which are barely enough to browse websites, let alone stream HD videos. According to Nokia, barely half of all Internet accessed from mobiles during the last year was streamed at 3G speeds. Even though analysts expect high speed Internet usage to go up in the coming years, there remain questions over whether the usage will only come from the five metropolitan cities or penetrate into Tier 2 and Tier 3 towns as well.

Cheaper alternatives

While almost nothing beats getting stuff for free, using torrents in India is a risky, not to mention illegal, business. Recently, reports suggested that many torrents sites were inaccessible in India. Users were informed that the blockage was on the orders of the Department of Telecommunications. In 2010, Hyderabad Police even arrested four people in connection with accessing, downloading and uploading movies on torrent sites.

In this respect, Netflix shines as one of the cheaper alternatives to legally view plenty of content. But there are other alternatives. As one Reddit user pointed out, Tata Sky’s HD plan for Rs 500 also provides access to multiple channels in High-Definition, which are “playing movies in HD all day.” There is no buffering and it’s also possible to record content.

However, this cost doesn’t take into account the cost of getting a Tata Sky dish installed and other one-time charges, which could run into another couple of thousand rupees.

Meanwhile, there are services such as Hotstar which provide live streaming of the Star network’s channels as well as a lot of other current and dated content on Indian television for free in high-definition.

For those looking for movies, there’s Eros Now which costs Rs 49 for a monthly subscription. The service claims to provide access to thousands of movies and television shows. The unlimited HD subscription for the same costs Rs 99 a month.

There are other alternatives like BoxTV and HOOQ that also provide on-demand content and cost about Rs 199 a month respectively.