HITS can get active in 2nd phase of digitisation

MUMBAI: The second phase of digitisation across 38 cities will offer an opportunity for Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS) operators as the presence of national multi-system operators (MSOs) is not adequate enough to cater to this entire television viewing population, said Digicable Network chief strategy officer Sisir Pillai.

Tapping into this market will be a few HITS operators. "We will see a couple of big players launching HITS service," said Pillai.

Hinduja Group, which has interests in cable TV distribution business through IndusInd Media and Communications Ltd, is planning to launch HITS platform for smaller cable TV operators to offer digital service. It has already applied to the Information and Broadcasting ministry for a licence.

The HITS business will be under Grant Investrade, an investment arm of the Hindujas. Grant Investrade holds 6 per cent stake in IMCL.

Jain TV Group-owned NSTPL (Noida Software Technology Park Limited) has also got plans to get aggressively active in HITS. It has christened its HITS platform as Jain HITS.

Earlier, Siticable had started HITS service before the government had mandated digitisation of cable TV networks also the country but the project failed to make much ground and was finally shelved off.

"HITS can be a cheaper and faster option to grab the market in the second phase. MSOs will need to invest Rs 160-200 million on a digital head-end in each city they want to reach out to as there is a requirement to build a capacity for carrying 500 channels," said Pillai.

Since in the first phase the national MSOs were having a strong base, there was no need gap for a HITS service, Pillai added.

Even in the third phase, Pillai expects HITS to have a strong potential to grow.

Cable operators will be able to also offer broadband services through their fibre optic co-axial cable, despite receiving video signals from the HITS provider via satellite. "The bundling of broadband with video services will also be possible even if cable operators take to HITS for offering digital service. So the advantage over DTH will continue to prevail. Direct-to-home service providers can‘t offer broadband and satellite bandwidth is very costly," said Asianet Satellite Communications Ltd president and COO G Sankaranarayana.

Building a HITS platform will, however, involve huge investments as it requires transponder space on satellite, encryption systems and digital set-top boxes. NSTPL is planning to invest Rs 15 billion over five years in its HITS project.

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