Satellite woes bog down Tata Sky’s Harit Nagpal

MUMBAI: Tata Sky Managing director Harit Nagpal is extremely irate. The reason: he has not been able to expand his DTH service's offerings for sometime now. And for no fault of his or his company's, he says.

Eight years ago, his company had contracted to use the government owned Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) satellite Insat 4A, with a proviso thrown in that if he needed more capacity, the satellite organisation would make the transponders available to him within two years of his request.

In 2007, his organisation wrote in asking for more capacity. By then, Tata Sky was having about two million subscribers with dishes pointing in the sky towards where the Insat 4A satellite is located in orbit.

Isro was slated to launch its Gsat-10 satellite with communications capabilities and Tata Sky had booked 12 transponders on it. The launch was delayed on account of something or the other. It finally, got into space in September 2012 off an Arianespace launch vehicle from Kourou in French Guiana.

The launch gave him some relief, but what has dumbfounded him, is the fact that the transponders have not been made available to him almost eight months since launch.

Since then, it has been a constant to and fro for his company. "We have been in touch with ISRO for a long time. We have written 100 emails to the ISRO chairman, met at least three to four times in the past six months. I know he wants to move things," says Nagpal. "But despite his wanting nothing is."

Nagpal has been told Tata Sky's allocation is stuck with the Space Commission currently. Prior to that, it was held up with the Insat Coordination Committee for a few months. He has even written to the Prime Minister's Office which has then forwarded his request to ISRO. And the yo-yoing has been going on since.

"It's extremely frustrating," says Nagpal. "I am a customer with a contract that entails me to pay Rs 50-60 lakh a month per transponder to the government as a rental. And I don't have the government sticking to its contractual obligations."

But why is this happening? "I guess it is inertia," says Nagpal. "Like everything has been stuck in bureaucracy. Even on this front no one is taking a decision as yet. Our contract is stuck in bureaucratic limbo."

Each of the 12 Ku-band transponders on GSat-10 have 36 MHz usable bandwidth with a footprint covering the Indian mainland with a power of 51.5 dBW. It is located at 83.0 degrees east in the same orbital location as Insat 4A and another Isro satellite GSAT-12.

"I am open to other options. If officials are worried, then let them throw Insat GSAT-10 open for tender," highlights Nagpal. "There will be no takers for it. Tata Sky is the only DTH provider, which has 10 million dishes nationally pointing towards the same zone in the sky that GSat-10 is at currently. Imagine you have an expensive bird in the sky costing $300-400 million and it is not being used productively."

Nagpal says he is days away from approaching the law of the land to force the government to stick to its commitments. "It's not the ideal way," he says. "I have been waiting for six years for my satellite transponders to be given to me. It has gone on long enough. There are no problems with my application; everything is sorted out. I am one of their main customers; so why such an extended delay?" he asks.

Is somebody in government listening? Or in Isro? called Isro chairman K. Radhakrishnan. And at that the time of writing was still awaiting a response from him. Keep watching this space for updates!

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