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Dish TV soft launch likely by August end; NSTPL becomes fifth applicant for DTH

NEW DELHI: Even as Noida Software Technology Park Ltd (NSTPL) becomes the fifth applicant for a direct-to-home (DTH) television service licence, Dish TV, a DTH venture that is being sought to be put together by various Subhash Chandra companies, is likely see a soft launch towards the end of this month.

"We are aiming to have a soft launch of our DTH venture by around 23 August," Zee Telefilms vice-chairman Jawahar Goel told indiantelevision.com. While Chandra's company ASC Enterprises would be the licence holder for the DTH venture (as and when the government completes the formalities), the project is being implemented by Siti Cable, the cable arm of Zee Telefilms.

According to Goel, Dish TV's soft launch is being done to use the time till a formal launch to fine-tune technical aspects and other glitches, if any. Siti Cable intends to market initially 20,000 dish antennas of its DTH service, Goel said, adding that the pricing of the monthly subscriptions, the initial installation charge and the cost of the equipment for a consumer is still being worked out.

An optimistic sounding Goel said that the government has agreed to a request an 18-month renewable bank guarantees for Rs 400 million from ASC Enterprises. This amount has to be submitted by the company to get one step closer to the actual licence for a DTH venture, which would be marketed under the brand name.

The DTH guidelines stipulate that before a final licence is issued, the applicant must furnish an Rs 400 million bank guarantee for the 10-year licence period. Zee's contention had been that Indian banks do not issue guarantees for such long periods of time and had cited the example of telecom and petroleum sectors where bank guarantees are renewed every year.

Goel added that some other 22 clearances that were needed from the Standing Advisory Committee on Frequency Allocation have been obtained for both its headend in the sky (HITS) project for conditional access and DTH. Zee had announced that it aims to launch its DTH service, along with the first phase of CAS rollout, from 1 September.

As for NSTPL, it is a group company of Dr J K Jain-promoted Jain Studios Ltd. It has filed for government permission for a KU-band DTH television venture. This makes it the fifth applicant for a DTH nod.

"We don't have any definite plan at the moment for a DTH venture, but since we have the capabilities and the infrastructure, we applied for a DTH licence," Dr Jain, a former Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament, told indiantelevision.com.

According to Jain, the infrastructure for HITS and DTH are very similar and going by the enthusiastic response that some HITS projects have got from the market, the group company wanted to have a DTH permission too.

NSTPL, which already has a teleport licence to uplink channels from India, had at one time sent feelers to Star India for partnering with it for a DTH venture. Jain had also said that if companies are interested Jain Studios was willing to become a partner in a news channel venture too.

Though Jain was not forthcoming on the source of funds that would be needed to put together a DTH platform, apart from the initial Rs 500 million that has to be given in the form of various guarantees before a licence is given, he did admit that when the time comes, "money would not be a problem."

JSL is one of the first Indian companies to start a satellite channel in India, Jain TV, in the mid-90s. But somewhere along the way it lost to the more aggressive channels from the stables of Zee, Star and later TV Today Network.

The other companies who have filed for government permission for a DTH venture include Space TV, which has investments from some Star India employees, ASC Enterprises (a group company of the Subhash Chandra-promoted Essel Group), Essel Shyam (a V-sat and infrastructure company partly owned by Zee group) and India's pubcaster Prasar Bharati.

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