Noida Software Technology Park Limited (NSTPL), one of the companies of Jain TV Group is launching a Headend In The Sky (HITS) project, branding it as JAIN HITS. The company has signed a multi-year, multi-transponder agreement for C-band capacity on satellite, Intelsat 902 (at 62 degree East). The financial details of the agreement have not been disclosed. It intends to use the capacity to create a white label, turnkey channel package that can be received and distributed by multiple system and local cable operators throughout the country.
Jain will target cable operators of all categories and capacities including big MSOs (Multi System Operators), Medium and Small Cable Operators (COs) and Independent System Operators (ISOs), as per a statement from the company. It says that Cable Operators will not need to put up expensive Digital Headend to meet regulatory, licensing and commercial requirements of running this business of distributing satellite TV channels, and will be able to meet the statutory requirements of QOS (Quality Of Service) parameters set by TRAI without risking big investments and without losing their cable networks ownership and clients, by joining its HITS platform.
Essel’s Exit from HITS
But is there a market for HITS? The Subhash Chandra-led Essel Group, the first and only Headend-in-the-Sky (HITS) operator in the country had suspended its operations in 2010, citing high entry fees, absence of a favourable tariff plan and restrictions on the use of DTH infrastructure, as reasons and had surrendered its bandwidth and transponder capacity to the government, as reported by The Financial Express. The company also operates DTH and cable businesses via Dish TV and WWIL. We had reported, that the Essel Group had invested Rs 35 million in a HITS platform for WWIL, which had a reach of 117 cities, at that time.
The Indian government had approved the proposal of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting on the policy guidelines issued for Headend In The Sky (HITS) operators in late 2009. It had also allowed HITS operators to provide signals directly to subscribers if they were an existing MSO or Cable Operator. It had also allowed a 74% FDI in the sector, with a cross media holding restriction of 20% to avoid vertical integration and to promote competition.
How HITS works
For the uninitiated, HITS is a TV delivery system where the service provider uplinks different channels from its dish farm so that cable operators can receive them, and pass them on to end subscribers. The system consists of Satellite Transponders in the outer space, spectrum on the airwaves, teleport equipped with a dish farm that can downlink all the satellite channels, decrypt each channel, bundle them together, encrypt the aggregated signal in digital form, aggregate multi program streams and uplink to the Satellite in the outer space so that Cable Operators can receive on a single dish all the 200 to 500 channels. The HITS operator would have already negotiated and obtained the permission of various broadcasters for using their content and settling the pricing issues.
Compliant with conditional access and digital transmission guidelines
According to the company, with the help of Subscriber Management System (SMS) and Conditional Access System (CAS), HITS can monitor and control all accounting, billing and cable distribution related business functions of all the subscribers. The company claims that HITS will show subscriber numbers to broadcasters, tax authorities, all partners in the cable distribution chain and all other interested parties, accurately and transparently.
It adds that subscribers shall benefit from itemized billing details so that they will be charged only for the channels that they wish to subscribe. So the platform will accelerate the path to digitization, as per the company.
Triple play & Internet capability
Jain also claims that its Set Top Box will have special provisions to turn into a hybrid platform providing both broadcasting as wells as broadband Internet services, and will be capable of providing many Value Added Services(VAS) including Voice Over Internet Protocol( VOIP) and Triple Play (Voice, Data &Video) services. It mentions that the HITS operator will provide all necessary support, supervision and leadership to interconnect with other networks and thus help to convert local area networks of cable operators into Wide Area Networks (WAN) by implementing its “Connect and Collaborate” policy.
Competition with DTH
The company claims that DTN (Direct To Network) services are cheaper and better than the DTH signals, and unlike DTH signals which stop or deteriorate during rains or any disturbance in the sky, HITS signals are never affected as they are carried on the same C-Band satellite and same cable networks being in use.