Tata-Sky leases Insat 4A; to offer 150 channels

MUMBAI: The countdown is well and truly on for Tata Sky Ltd, the Tata-Star joint venture, to launch direct-to-home (DTH) services in India.

Tata Sky announced today that it has signed an agreement with the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) to lease all 12 Ku-band transponders on the Insat 4A satellite. These transponders will be used by Tata Sky to provide about 150 channels in digital quality to Indian homes, including those in the remote interiors.

Additionally, the company, formerly called Space TV, announced its re-christening to Tata Sky Ltd, and the branding of its DTH service as Tata Sky (and not T-Sky as earlier announced).

"We will be launching our service with 150 channels," says Tata Sky Ltd CEO Vikram Kaushik.

On being queried as to how 150 channels could be offered with 12 Ku-band transponders, he refuses to spell out the compression technology the company plans to use.

Industry experts say 10 channels can be comfortably squeezed in per transponder. But with statistical multiplexing, Tata Sky can be able to accommodate 150 channels, they add.

The other option to ramp up more channels in 12 Ku-band transponders is to use MPEG-4 compression technology, but experts say the product is not fully out yet in the market and the price is not attractive at this stage.

The company is planning to launch its services in March-June 2006. But aren't 8-10 clearances still to be obtained from various ministries? "We expect to get all the clearances very soon," says Kaushik.

Commenting on signing up with Isro, Kaushik says: "Tata Sky is proud to use an Indian satellite to deliver its service to all television viewers in India. We are excited that our DTH service will be beamed from Isro's Insat 4A, the most advanced and high-powered Ku-band communication satellite in the region. This will enable Tata Sky to offer superior picture and sound quality with a wider range of channels, giving us a competitive edge in the market."

Adds executive director of Antrix Corporation, the marketing and export arm of the department of space and Isro, KR Sridhara Murthi, "We are very happy to partner with Tata Sky in their endeavour to bring about a revolution in television-viewing to India. The Insat 4A satellite has been developed keeping the local requirements in mind and will enable Tata Sky to provide superior coverage all across India."

According to an official release, Tata Sky plans to offer its subscribers cable channels, new innovative programming and interactive services.

As already reported by indiantelevision.com, Isro is planning to launch Insat 4A from Kourou, French Guayana, on 16 December. According to information available with this website, after launch, a satellite takes anywhere between one to two months to settle into its geostationary orbital slot. What follows then is a month of signal testing after which the service can be offered to consumers. Going by this timeline, Tata Sky should become operational anytime between March and June 2006.

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