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Tata Sky to get more satellite capacity courtesy GSAT 10

MUMBAI: For offering more high-definition (HD) channels, 4K and interactive services, direct-to-home (DTH) operator Tata Sky is going to acquire transponder space on GSAT 10 satellite.

Faced with bandwidth crunch, this is a significant move to accommodate carriage of more television channels.

tata sky footballTata Sky, a joint venture between Tata Group and Rupert Murdoch-controlled 21st Century Fox, has also completed moving its entire subscribers to MPEG-4 set-top boxes (STBs) in order to push additional channels.

“Tata Sky is chasing a new satellite [GSAT 10], which will give it space for more HD, 4K, interactive services, and more viewing services like optional subtitles which it does not offer right now,” a source familiar with the development told TelevisionPost.com.

While lamenting that capacity has been a severe limitation for DTH operators, he said that Tata Sky will be beaming from two satellites. “Eventually the DTH player will be beaming from two satellites so, yes, it need more bandwidth and capacity,” he stated.

Tata Sky is currently on INSAT 4A and is testing the signals on GSAT 10. “It is still on INSAT 4A. It is still testing progressively increasing the power of the satellite to see what the impact of the reception is. Capacity addition is not in the company’s control, but it will happen soon. They want to do things properly,” the source noted.

The testing of GSAT10 satellite had led to disruption of services in March and April impacting thousands of customers. The DTH operator had immediately swung into action to restore the services.

“In March and April, the company had interruptions because it was testing the satellite. As a result, it was beaming from two different satellites although on the same orbit, so the dish could receive signals from both GSAT 10 and INSAT 4A. Because it was sending two different signals, you need to fix angle on your dish in a particular way,” he explained.

The capacity addition will allow Tata Sky to offer sophisticated products like more HD channels besides 4K and interactive services. Currently, it offers 400 channels and services, including 51 HD channels.

Launched in September 2012, GSAT 10 has 12 Ku, 12 C-band, and six lower C-band transponders. At 83°, it is co-located with INSAT 4A and GSAT-12. INSAT 4A, on the other hand, has 12 Ku band and 12 C-band transponders each.

Earlier, the bandwidth crunch had forced Tata Sky to upgrade its STBs to MPEG-4 from MPEG-2 in order to push more channels.

“Tata Sky was capable of expanding the number of channels it carries up to 400, which is where it is today just by its own investments and technological upgrading. It migrated from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4. As of now, there is no single MPEG-2 box left in its network,” the source said.

He also said that people will watch more and more on the go on multiple devices and on demand away from linear devices. This is the reason Tata Sky has launched a slew of services on Anywhere TV app and Transfer+.

According to the source, the reason for growth of over-the-top (OTT) platforms is the viewing experience they offer to customers. “Learning for pay TV platforms from OTT is that viewing experience has to be great. Besides content, they focus on recommendation engine, beautiful interface, convenience of watching, on-demand, on the go,” he said.

He also pointed out that to launch optional subtitles and to improve EPG more bandwidth is required.

Recently, Tata Sky had launched an HD service with Star Sports called Star Sports Add-on HD, which allows customers to watch matches that the sportscaster is not able to broadcast on its existing channels due to excessive content.

The service is being offered to Tata Sky subscribers at no extra cost. The DTH operator is contemplating this experiment with other broadcasters as well.