Satellites

Isro sets 16 December as launch date for Insat 4A

MUMBAI: The Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) has informed Tata-Sky Ltd, the 80:20 joint venture between the Tatas and Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star Group, that the launch of its much delayed Insat 4A satellite has been set for 16 December.

Tata-Sky CEO Vikram Kaushik confirmed to indiantelevision.com that Isro had intimated that Insat 4A, the first in a satellite series crucial to the future of Tata-Star's T-Sky direct to home (DTH) venture, would be launched from Kourou, French Guayana, on 16 December. Tata-Sky has booked 11 Ku band transponders on Insat 4A.

This tallies with what Isro chairman M Madhavan Nair had told newspersons in Bangalore a few days ago - that Insat 4A had already been shifted to Kourou, from where it would be launched "probably in the middle of December". Nair made his comments while inaugurating the Edusat class room in Bangalore.

The fixing of Insat 4A's launch date also provides a window to when Tata-Sky's DTH service T-Sky will likely become operational. According to information available with indiantelevision.com, 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, T-Sky should become operational anytime between March and June 2006.

When queried about this, Kaushik offered no comments except to state that T-Sky would make a public statement about the launch of its service at the appropriate time.

The launch of the Insat series - 4A, 4B and 4C - over the next year or so will add 36 Ku-band transponders to Isro's capacity. This is expected to sizably increase the number of transponders for the various DTH operators.

Kalanithi Maran's Sun Direct, meanwhile, has booked four-six transponders in the initial phase on 4B or 4C.

DTH providers can beam a maximum of 12 channels per transponder, depending on their compression technology. The availability of transponder space would limit the channel offerings from the DTH service providers. Insat 4A and 4B have a capacity of 12 Ku band and 12 C-band transponders each. Insat 4C, on the other hand, has just 12 Ku band transponders.

Dish TV and Doordarshan's DD Direct use the NSS 6 satellite for their DTH services.

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