Airtel launches DTH service, offers 175 channels

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New Delhi, Oct 7 (UNI) Banking on its success in the country's telecom sector, Bharti Airtel today announced the launch of its Direct to Home (DTH) satellite TV service-- Airtel Digital TV -- which will be available across India from Thursday.

''Indian DTH industry is an exciting space with only three per cent penetration and is expected to grow four times in the next five years...currently, the overall market size is of 225 million customers and we think it is the right time for the company to enter the market,'' Bharti Airtel CEO and Joint Managing Director Manoj Kohli told reporters here.

The service, offering 175 channels, will be initially available to customers in 62 cities through 21,000 retail points, including retail relationship centres across the country. Later, it will be expanded to 252 cities, Mr Kohli apprised.

The company is launching the services in the Southern region of India at Rs 1,999, while for rest of the country, the services will be available at an entry price of Rs 2,499.

Asked whether the prices will be available to recover the cost of set top boxes, he said, ''We hope to recover the cost soon...the pricing will not affect the consumer demand in any way.'' On the amount of money which the company has invested to roll out the DTH service, he said, ''For this, the company has used its 2.5 billion dollars annual capex, which excludes capex on 3G.'' To rollout the service, the company has sourced the best-in-breed technology based on MPEG 4, which is a generation ahead of existing offerings in satellite technology. It has also set up a state-of-the-art infrastructure near Gurgaon for the purpose of uplinking and broadcast.

With the government's initiative to speed up digital delivery through mandatory CAS implementation in 54 cities, the TV-viewing market is vastly opening up and big players are foraying into the DTH market. The existing players include Reliance BigTV, Tata Sky and Dish TV.

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