Dish TV’s R1k device makes DTH portable

After mobile number portability, now for the first time in the country DTH portability will become a reality. Targeting around 6-8 million inactive DTH subscribers of the private direct-to-home operators, Dish TV is going to commercially launch a small device called CAM which will enable the DTH consumers to change their existing DTH operators without having to change their DTH boxes. Branded as ‘Dish Freedom’, Dish TV will launch the device in next few days and will price it at below R1,000 or less than half the cost of activating a new DTH connection.

Dish Freedom is a small device called the Conditional Access Module (CAM) which when attached to a non-Dish TV set-top-box, will be able to access the content offered by Dish TV. Consumers opting for Dish Freedom will also get bundled along a minimum number of channels offered by Dish TV initially, sources said.

There were close to 10-million inactive or dormant DTH subscribers out of 33 million subscribers in the country at the beginning of 2011, as per a report by Media Partners Asia. However, several DTH operators claim the number of inactive subscribers to be much lower. And this is the market Dish TV is looking to tap into, sources said.

DTH portability or the interoperability among various DTH boxes is part of the basic licensing conditions mandated by the government.

However, in practice none of the boxes of existing DTH operators—Dish TV, Tata Sky, Airtel Digital TV, Reliance Big TV, Sun Direct and Videocon D2H—are interoperable. Operators have resisted portability of DTH boxes terming it as commercially non-viable. Also, since four out of the six DTH operators use MPEG-4 compression technology while Dish TV and Tata Sky use MPEG-2, operators say portability among these two technology will be expensive and at much higher cost than a new DTH connection.

But Dish TV is undeterred by such arguments. “We will launch Dish Freedom soon. The law mandates that boxes of all operators should be interoperable. If consumers discover their existing boxes to be non-interoperable, authorities will have to look into it,” Jawahar Goel, MD, Dish TV said.

Sources said, the company has already provided the samples of ‘Dish Freedom’ CAMs to both the information and broadcasting ministry as well as the Trai. The issue of DTH interoperability has been debated before the courts and has also been examined by the Competition Commission of India. However, sources in Dish TV said they would target the dormant or inactive DTH subscribers and will market the product to them initially

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