DTH players competing on technology front

In a short span of time, direct-to-home (DTH) television is revolutionising the TV culture in India. This channel of beaming signals into households is expected to grow to 15 million from the present 6 million in the next couple of years.

With the existing players Dish TV and Tata Sky, both broadcasters using MPEG2 technology, and offering a varied set of services to customers, new entrants are bringing in other technologies though it may drill a deeper hole in their finances.

Dish TV takes a hit close to Rs 2,300 and Rs 2,400. Out of the 81 million cable and satellite TV viewing audience, only 5 to 6 million DTH consumers use the DTH technology leaving a large untapped market.

Bharati Airtel and Reliance Communications plan to enter the market soon, and would be using MPEG4. As DTH players are offering a considerable subsidy to their consumers, this new technology will cost them more.

In an recent interview, Jawahar Goel, managing director, Dish TV, said, “The MPEG 4 boxes are more expensive and may put extra burden on the subscriber. Moreover, the MPEG 4 format is not in accordance with BIS (Bureau of Indian Standard) and the government’s regulations and, hence, is not interoperable with MPEG 2 boxes.”

The benefits from MPEG4 go to the manufacturer rather than the consumer, though the picture and sound quality would remain the same. Simply put, MPEG4 is a compression technology. If MPEG2 can compress 10 channels in a particular bandwidth MPEG4 would compress 10 to 15 channels. But the benefit to the manufacturer is that the option of offering more channels to the consumer will not be a difficult task in terms of creating the necessary infrastructure.

Dish TV and Tata Sky account for the 5 to 6 million subscribers in this space. Sun Direct that has just entered the market and has built a consumer base of 1 million and uses MPEG4.

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