Having got clearances from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, as directed by the appellate tribunal, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, the Subhash Chandra-led Essel Group is set for the commercial launch of Headend-in-the-Sky (HITS), its new cable distribution platform.
Essel Group's plan to launch the service in early August hit a roadblock after broadcasters, like those offering Star and Sony bouquets, denied the signals, pointing out that the downlinking guidelines do not provide for HITS.
The TDSAT then asked the group to get the necessary clarification from the ministry.
In a clarification recently, the ministry said that providing signals/ content of permitted television channels to existing HITS operators for retransmission/ distribution to cable operators would not be taken as violation of existing guidelines.
HITS is a new cable-distribution platform that is similar to the direct-to-home service. It allows distribution of digital-quality cable channels via satellite to cable operators at one go. For consumers, it means access to quality cable channels via a set-top box at reduced monthly rates, while for the cable industry, it means faster and cost-effective digitalisation.
However, unlike DTH, HITS works on a lower frequency (C-band, while DTH works on Ku-band). Also, end consumers under HITS are cable operators, while DTH signals reach consumers directly.
Essel Group's HITS licencee arm, Wire and Wireless India Ltd, has now approached the TDSAT seeking relief. In its plea, WWIL has sought signals from all major broadcasters, including Star DEN, MSM Discovery, among others.
"The I&B ministry has issued a clarification asking all broadcasters to share their channels with our HITS platform... we hope to launch HITS soon," a senior executive from the Essel Group told Business Standard.
According to sources, the HITS platform from the Essel Group may be called 'SITI Satellite' and is likely to offer packages of 105-130 channels at attractive price points of Rs 80-100 per month.
This is lower than several packages offered by existing DTH players.
It should be noted that HITS is a new platform and the government is yet to come out with a detailed policy on HITS.However, the Essel Group had got the HITS licence five years ago and got a renewed permission earlier this year to launch HITS. The Essel Group is already into broadcasting (Zee TV), cable distribution (WWIL), DTH services (Dish TV) and other related businesses.