Thomas K. Thomas
Nithya Subramanian

New Delhi, Dec. 7

THE Department of Telecom (DoT) has cleared the Tata-Star Group's Direct-To-Home (DTH) proposal paving way for the company to foray into the digital television segment. The company had recently announced that it has signed an agreement with the Indian Space Research Organisation to lease all 12 KU-band transponders on the new INSAT 4A satellite.

The transponders leased on INSAT 4A, to be launched later this month, will allow Tata-Star to transmit around 150 channels in digital quality to Indian homes including those even in the remote interiors. The Tata-Star DTH service, once operational, is slated to become India's largest digital television platform, offering consumers a wide array of programming choices with interactive features. The joint venture was established in 2004 with the Tata group holding 80 per cent and the Star Group holding a minority 20 per cent. The project cost is estimated at Rs 1,600 crore.

The proposal was stuck at the Wireless Planning and Coordination wing of the DoT, which gives clearance for all wireless installations in the country. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (I&B) has already cleared the proposal from its side.

Subash Chandra-promoted ASC Enterprises' Dish TV, and DD Direct+ are the existing players in the DTH space. Through DTH, consumers can directly access TV channels, Internet and other multi-media services, without a cable operator, by installing a small dish antenna. It is not clear when Star DTH will go on air but with the approvals coming in and the INSAT 4A expected to be launched this month, consumers are likely to get one more option in the DTH space by the second quarter next year.

The Tata-Star DTH application has been pending with the Government since early 2004. The I&B Ministry sought several clarifications from the company regarding its management structure.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 8, 2005)
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