DTH

DTH players facing severe transponder shortage

BANGALORE: It is a case of demand outstripping supply. There is a sudden rush to start direct-to-home (DTH) services but space on satellites just isn't available to meet the requirement.

 

 

Take the immediate need from three players, which is 23 Ku-band transponders. The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has allocated 11 for Tata Sky, the 80:20 joint venture between the Tatas and Star Group, on Insat 4A. This will keep Kalanithi Maran's Sun Direct waiting till Insat 4C launches in the first quarter of next year. And for Anil Ambani's Reliance there may be no room even on Insat 4B, which can only launch in May 2006 at the earliest. The space on Insat 4B is reserved for Doordarshan which wants six Ku-band transponders.

 

 

The launch of the Tata Sky DTH service branded T-Sky, in fact, is set for further delay. Insat 4A, which was to be up in August-September, now may launch only in November. Though the satellite was ready in May, Arianespace has placed it in queue. "Arianespace has intimated to us about a November launch. We are pushing hard for October as the customers are waiting for it," says Isro contract management and legal services director SB Iyer.

Space TV, sources say, had planned for a November test run if the satellite had come up in August-September. Now it can only start services next year as the satellite normally takes a month after launch to stabilise. Tata Sky CEO Vikram Kaushik, however, was cautious about commenting on the issue. "We have factored the Isro timings into our schedule," he says.

Tata Sky will be given 11 Ku-band transponders on Insat 4A which will be pushed to 12 later. "The satellite has 12 Ku-band transponders. It is fully booked by Tata Sky. We have kept one transponder for strategic reserve," says Iyer.

Reliance has indicated to Isro that it wants to start by mid-2006 with six transponders. If Sun is ready to launch on Insat 4C, Isro would explore options to lease space on other satellite operators before Insat series builds up capacity. Sun Direct plans to start initially with five transponders.

The ramp up plan of DTH operators can further widen the gap which Isro has to gear up fast to bridge. Tata Sky and Reliance want 18 transponders each while Sun intends to stabilise at nine. The demand among the four players including Doordarshan totals up to 51 Ku-band transponders.

And this count does not include Subhash Chandra's Dish TV, which is on NSS satellite, but has not yet indicated to Isro whether it wants space on the Insat series. BPCL, the other player which is waiting to launch, has also not applied to Isro for transponder space.

"In the past one year, nobody expected DTH to burst out. We are creating capacity and will have 36 Ku-band transponders between November-June. We are fully booked. After that, we are planning to add up another 36 Ku-band transponders which we expect to take us a year from then," says Iyer.

Isro will have a tough task as there is a burgeoning demand for Ku-band transponders not only from DTH service providers but also other users including telecom operators like Bharti and BSNL.

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