Television

Terrestrial network gets the boot; Ku band gets the green signal

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The outlay for the I&B ministry in the 10th Five Year Plan has been recommended at Rs 85,500 million, of which the broadcasting sector gets the lion‘s share of Rs 76,700 million.

The Working Group is however clear that terrestrial broadcasting network in the country should not be expanded any further. Instead, the investment, it recommends, is to be channelised into providing a multi channel bouquet in free to air mode in the Ku band through satellite distribution. In case of sparsely populated areas, the bouquet of channels should be delivered direct to the TV households through individual set top boxes by recovering 50 per cent cost from the consumers, it suggests.

In case of compact populations of 100 TV households, the bouquet should be delivered through a cable headend to be given to an entrepreneur or a local public authority or institutions by meeting the 100 per cent capital cost. Investment in set top boxes and cable headends should be phased out in such a manner that the entire operation becomes market driven by the end of the 10th plan, the group has suggested.

The cost of covering the remaining 10 per cent of the population in the terrestrial mode would run up to Rs 21,320 million, while recurring costs would amount to Rs 3,200 million. Comparative figures of coverage via satellite or through cable distribution work out to far lesser costs, the group concludes.

Summary Comparison of cost estimation for expansion of coverage (Rs. millions)

Coverage expansion Terrestrial(1 channel) Direct from satellite - set top boxes (20 channels) throuch cable

distribution

(6 channels)
 
  Capital Rec/Ann Capital Rec/Ann Capital Rec/Ann
90 - 95 % 13240 1990 3380 360 3130 770
95 - 100 % 21320 3200 3000 Nil 2750 410

Satellite, says the report, is a more viable option for providing coverage to such areas. The capital investment required is only for the uplinking facility and hiring of transponders, which is low compared to investments required in a large network of terrestrial transmitters, it adds.

Although spectrum, a scarce resource, is freely available to DD at present, it would not be prudent to overlook its opportunity cost, the report notes. Satellite distribution systems on the other hand, can carry large number of channels with only marginal increase in the investment on uplink and transponder facilities as compared to a single channel network of terrestrial transmitters, the report has suggested.

Cost of set top boxes along with satellite dish antennas for free to air reception in the Ku band, currently pegged at Rs 6000 is likely to come down by 50 per cent in the next five years, the report predicts. Maintaining that a one time investment of this quantum for getting a large bouquet of free to air channels would be ‘very much within the reach of majority of the population‘, the report says that there is a need for conscious effort to promote this technology in the initial years to realise a large volume of receiving equipment in an affordable price by the end of the plan period.

The report recommends distribution of a bouquet of around 20 channels in the Ku band in FTA mode as it requires a small dish antenna, making its transportation and installation in the remote and inaccessible areas very convenient, and is cheaper than C band installations.

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