TV viewing to become more enjoyable with HITS

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New Delhi, Jan 4 (UNI) Cable TV homes across the country may look forward to enjoying a better reception and more choices with a decision on introduction of a service called Headend-in-the-Sky (HITS) in the offing.

HITS is a satellite based platform for delivering multi-channel television signals to cable operators across the country and it is capable of delivering the signals in a digital form with addressability features.

The Telecom Regularity Authoriy of India(TRAI) had already forwarded its recommendation on HITS to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in October.

''We have discussed the report and come close to taking a final view,'' Joint Secretary Information and Broadcasting Zohra Chatterji told UNI.

The new platform will revolutionalise cable operations throughout the country, she said.

Sources in the Ministry the Government was actively considering introduction of HIT and a decision may come in a fortnight.

TRAI Member(Broadcasting) R N Chaubey said the main advantage of HITS was that transmission of TV signals can be digitised throughout the country in one go. There are at present 60,000 cable operators serving 70 million cable homes.

He said cable operators will have to modernise their whole transmission set up to receieve signals direcly from the satellite.

Mr Chaubey said the new platform enjoyed a definite advantages over the analogue transmission as it can carry a greater number of channels than the cable, give better reception and has added features like programme guide and multiview.

Such features are currently available only to a limited number of cable subscribers in notified areas of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, where conditional access system (CAS) has been put in place.

The HITS operator uplinks signals of TV channels of different broadcasters to his HITS satellite in the sky. The cable operators across the country can then downlink these TV channels from this satellite for further distribution to the subscribers through their cable network in digital form.

The important recommendations on the policy framework of HITS operation are as follows: HITS operators will provide digital signals of TV channels only to the registered MSOs/cable operators and not directly to subscribers.

To enable fast digitalisation of cable services, no restrictions regarding transmission frequency band for HITS operation should be imposed.

Uplinking from outside India should also be permitted at the option of HITS operators.

Foreign investment upto 74 per cent recommended in line with the telecom sector.

Entry fee of Rs 10 crore and minimum network requirement of Rs 40 crore have been recommended to ensure that only serious players get HITS license.

No annual fee has been recommended to ensure level playing field with multi system operators and to ensure that HITS service competes effectively with other delivery platforms.

Condition for rolling out the service within a period of one year is recommended.

Provision of refundable performance Bank Guarantee of Rs 40 crore has also been made in the recommendations with the stipulation that it will be refunded on completion of roll out obligation and shall be forfeited in the event of failure to roll out the service.

To avoid vertical integration and to promote competition, cross holding restrictions among broadcasting company, DTH licensee and HITS operator has been recommended.

Thus, no broadcasting company or DTH licensee can hold more than 20 per cent of equity in HITS company and vice-versa.

Uplinking/downlinking guidelines need to be amended to enable HITS operators to get signals from the broadcasters.

HITS operators should pay spectrum fee similar to that paid by the DTH operators.

UNI NAZ NC RS1412

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