Television

Siti moving ahead on HITS

NEW DELHI: With the Subhash Chandra-promoted ASC Enterprises having got the government go-ahead for a teleport facility in India, specifically for its headend in the sky (HITS) venture, another Chandra company Siti Cable is going full steam ahead to get the logistics in place, including the boxes and other uplink equipment necessary.

According to industry sources, since the formal letter from India's information and broadcasting ministry is to be issued within a few days to ASC Enterprise, Siti Cable, at the moment, is busy finalising vendors for the hardware for HITS through which a digital conditional access system is being sought to be implemented. 

Siti Cable is looking at three to four vendors who can supply it with readymade conditional access boxes that would be needed by cable operators and viewers to access the pay channels.

A source close to the dealmaking said, "Since Siti cable is likely to place bulk orders for the boxes, the price that it is looking at for the digital boxes would be between $ 43-48."

Since Indian manufacturers of boxes are rare to find at this moment, Siti Cable has shortlisted some non-Indian vendors after receiving quotes following a global tender for the boxes that had been floated about four months ago.

The Essel Group, the omnibus entity under which Chandra carries out his various media and non-media businesses through listed (like Zee Telefilms) and non-listed companies (such as ASC Enterprises), has already contracted the Europe-based Conax in a multi-million dollar deal for the software needed for conditional access.

The sources also indicated that the HITS project is likely to be commissioned by May-June, just ahead of the 14 July rollout deadline for CAS as mandated by the Indian government.

Talks with other broadcasters like Star and Sony will be soon initiated to join the HITS platform. Siti Cable had earlier also said that if other stakeholders of the industry wish, a multi-pronged venture can be formed with everybody having equal stake in the HITS company.

HITS is being projected as a less expensive mode of implementing CAS. It is also a system that can later be used for a DTH platform.

Industry experts say that individual headends going in for CA will be expensive in the sense that on each channel between Rs 75,000 to Rs 100,000 would have to be spent on headend equipment for analog solution. A digital solution would be even more expensive.

According to a senior executive of Siti Cable, "The cable operators are likely to accept HITS faster as it will save them the cost of headend upgradation to accommodate the growing number of channels and they will also save the cost of installing CA for their individual headends."

Meanwhile, while the Hinduja-owned INCAbleNet is likely to go in for conditional access software from Nagra, Hathway has tied up with a News Corp company, NDS, for conditional access.

What is HITS? In short, pay channels are decrypted and aggregated at a central facility, then the channels are turned around with a common CA inserted at the master digital headend and uplinked again. The channels are received at various cable headends where they are transmodulated and the QAM (the modulation used in cable business) stream of digital channel is combined with analog channels, modulated locally, at the cable headend.

The combined channels go to a subscriber's set-top box (STB) and get decrypted for viewing. The non-STB homes continue to receive FTA channels via cable.

The proponents of HITS have argued that a platform covering 7,000 headends can de done with a single subscriber management system (SMS) and CA.

HITS-type projects have been tried elsewhere in the world too --- AT&T, for example, has been operating HITS in the US since 1994 for big independent cable ops.

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Siti pushing HITS plan for CAS; Swaraj calls meeting with cable ops next week

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