Isro schedules Insat 4C launch for July

MUMBAI: All indications point to the second half of the year being when we will see some fresh action on the direct-to-home (DTH) television services front. Even as the timeline for the Tata Sky DTH service looks to be June-July, the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is all set to launch Insat 4C, the latest in the Insat series, in July.

Kalanithi Maran's Sun Group, which has booked space on Insat 4C, is negotiating with Isro for eight Ku-band transponders. Earlier Sun had indicated that it would start its Sun Direct DTH service with five transponders which it would ramp up to nine.

"Sun now wants to start with eight transponders. The company is in discussions with Isro," an industry source says.

Though Insat 4C has a capacity of 12 Ku-band transponders, the problem with Isro is that it has got demand from other operators as well. The government requires four transponders for village telephony over a period of time. Even National Informatics Centre (NIC) has asked for four transponders to start with. "We have committed to giving them one transponder each. We may give some transponders to NIC on Insat 4B, which is slated for launch in the first quarter of 2007 as we have to coordinate with the launch vehicle (Arianespace's commercial launcher Ariane 5)," says Isro contract management and legal services director SB Iyer.

Isro will also be handing over two Ku-band transponders to media companies for digital satellite news gathering (DSNG) activities. "DSNG is a fast-growing segment. We are providing two transponders for DSNG operators," Iyer says.

With one-to-two transponders reserved for spare capacity, Sun may have to finally settle for less than what it wants. But Isro will allocate transponders to customers who are ready to take them first.

Meanwhile, Anil Ambani's Reliance has also booked space for its own DTH plans. As things stand now, there may be no room even on Insat 4B as the space on Insat 4B is reserved for Doordarshan which wants six Ku-band transponders at the minimum.

Subhash Chandra's Dish TV, which is on NSS satellite, 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.

Insat 4C will be put into orbit in July by the Geo-synchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-5 (GSLV), to be launched from Isro's Sriharikota facility.

With 12 high power Ku-band transponders, Insat 4C is the first Indian satellite to exclusively offer DTH playout facilities. The satellite will have the capacity to beam about 150 television channels in all.

The other two satellites of the Insat 4 series --- 4A and 4B --- have both Ku-band and C-band capacity, carrying 12 transponders of each. Insat 4A launched last December.

Isro has already allocated all the 12 transponders on Insat 4A for Tata Sky, the 80:20 joint venture between the Tatas and Star Group.

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