Why Tata Sky's Harit Nagpal is pained about the MPEG-4 STB rollout

MUMBAI: A press release hit indiantelevision.com yesterday disclosing how US chip company Broadcom had got a massive order to supply standard definition MPEG-4 set top boxes (STBs) to Tata Sky. A simple release right. But it surely got the goose of Tata Sky managing director Harit Nagpal.

Tata Sky MD Harit Nagpal is still awaiting a response from ISRO officials

"This entire exercise is costing Tata Sky about Rs 1000 crore," was Nagpal's admission, when indiantelevision.com called him up. "We are replacing close to 5-6 million MPEG-2 SD STBs at no cost to consumers over the next year. All of this is coming in from internal accruals." Nagpal says the DTH operator normally supplies about three million STBs a year for new acquisitions and churn. "This year we will be doing about 9-10 million STBs," says he.


The volumes have forced him to bring in emergency teams to make sure they install 500,000 STBs a month (made by Huawei and Humax apart from other international STB makers). This is apart from the regular service teams, which handle regular installation and problems.

"For us even at Tata Sky it is a massive exercise and we have been working on it for the past three months and have just started the rollout," he reveals.

But isn't that good? "Upgrading the boxes will give me more capacity for 12-14 channels," he admits. "But I am being forced to do this because Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) has yet to give me my transponders. I could have put this money elsewhere on expanding my digitisation plans."

Tata Sky's signals are being beamed off Insat 4A; but it had signed a contract to lease 12 transponders on ISRO's GSAT-10 satellite around five years ago which have not been delivered to Tata Sky yet, even after the satellite launched in to space in September 2012.

"It is sad that after national publications and a medium such as yours have carried my complaint against ISRO, I have not got a single revert from it about our transponders. We intend to take legal action since all our attempts to reach ISRO have failed. The courts are on vacation now, when they open again, we will move them," added Nagpal.

The transponders would have allowed Tata Sky to increase its channel offerings to consumers. However, now the new STBs will allow Tata Sky to add more channels to its bouquet. "We have been adding channels in a phased manner; the process will now be accelerated with the MPEG-4 STB. By June-July next year we should be able to revise our channel offerings to consumers," said Nagpal.

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