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Jaitley launches Hinduja’s HITS service, group plans to invest Rs 5,000 crore in project
NEW DELHI: NXT Digital, the headend-in-the-sky (HITS) project of Hinduja Ventures, was formally launched on Wednesday by Minister for Information & Broadcasting Arun Jaitley.
Hinduja Ventures chairman Ashok Hinduja announced an investment of Rs 5,000 crore (Rs 50 billion) to support the project that would enable independent multi-system operators (MSOs) and local cable operators (LCOs) to transition from analogue to digital cable systems.
“Multiple carriage technologies will provide customers more choice with regard to technology platforms,” Jaitley said while launching the service from the ministry office in New Delhi.
Later during a press conference here, Hinduja said that the HITS project could consume as much as Rs 5,000 crore, which could go up depending on the response the technology receives.
“The project size minimum is Rs 5,000 crore, which the group is committed to invest,” he told during the media interaction.
The investment would be towards set-top boxes (STBs), cable operator premise equipment (COPE), mini-headend systems and infrastructure, he added.
He sounded bullish about the media and entertainment sector and stated that despite losing Rs 500–600 crore (Rs 5–6 billion), the company continued to invest in the cable business.
Castle Media director Vynsley Fernandes said that the investment also included new products and services that the HITS brand would launch in future.
“Our business is not just television delivery services. We are getting into a number of products and services that we haven’t revealed. We are looking at VAS and e-commerce apps for the platform that can be developed for Phases III and IV of DAS (digital addressable system). The outlay is for a number of products and services that we will roll out over the next couple of years,” he stated.
Grant Investrade MD Tony D’Silva described NXT Digital as a deep emotional commitment of the Hindujas to the nation’s digitalisation mission and ‘Make in India’ initiative. Grant Investrade is a wholly owned subsidiary of Hinduja Ventures.
Lauding LCOs for their entrepreneurial spirit, Hinduja said that NXT Digital was designed to help small LCOs to digitise their network without losing hold over them.
“We are confident that what we have launched today will facilitate the government’s Digital India initiative, along with contributing towards the Make in India mission. It would enable thousands of entrepreneurial cable operators to make a transition from analogue to digital across an estimated 120 million homes in India,” he said.
NXT Digital has designed the COPE systems to cater specifically to Indian conditions. These systems have been 100 per cent assembled in India with a fair amount of Indian components included in the build.
In response to the nation’s Skill India initiative, NXT Digital has tied up with training institutes to train and equip youth in smaller Indian towns and markets with the necessary skills required for supporting a digital India—from supporting the transition from analogue to digital to providing a pan-India network of trained service technicians, he stated.
The HITS service will provide MPEG4 STBs to LCOs at affordable prices. Unlike direct-to-home (DTH), HITS does not have bandwidth crunch as it uses C-band transponders. Initially, the HITS platform will deliver 500 channels to customers.
“The HITS platform will help cable operators and MSOs to take their businesses to the next level but also diligently ensures compliance with the guidelines of the various regulatory bodies,” he said.
NXT Digital has adopted a focused marketing and subscription drive for these markets, and in just about two months since the announcement of the brand, it has travelled across 400 districts in 20 states to contact and inform the cable fraternity there about its offerings, added D’Silva.
He also said that IndusInd Media and Communications Ltd (IMCL) and NXT Digital would operate at an arm’s-length distance except in cases where there are synergies. IMCL would digitise its networks in Phase III and IV markets, while NXT Digital would acquire new subscribers by bringing LCOs into its fold.
Queried about response from the broadcasters, D’Silva said that the platform had already signed contracts with 80–90 per cent of the broadcasters and announced pricing of packages to LCOs.
Grant Investrade chairman AK Das said that the HITS platform would prevent piracy as there is no scope for STB swapping. In order to prevent swapping, every last-mile owner (LMO) would be assigned a unique code and all STBs would be locked to that code. NXT Digital’s service will be encrypted at three ends—earth station, headend and STB.