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HITS platform to be available in India, again

Subhash Chandra-led Essel Group had tried and tested the technology in the Indian market and received negative feedback. The new company, Jainhits, will reportedly invest Rs 250 crore in the first two phases, and offer the set-top boxes (STBs) at Rs 950. The company expects to sell three million STBs in the initial phase. It will be launched in November, 2012.

Noida Software Technology Park (NSTPL), Motorola Mobility, a Google Company, Intelsat and KIT digital are set to launch Jainhits, a TV broadcast distribution company based on the HITS technology. The technology is said to be relatively cheaper than the existing digital cable or DTH platforms, claim the company officials.

(L to R) Manoj Jain, Dr JK Jain, Pradip Baijal, Kevin Keefe, Stephane Thibault, Nicole Dixone and Ankur Jain

This will be the second time that a Direct to Network (DTN) service (digital channels are delivered via satellite) will be launched in India. Earlier, Subhash Chandra-led Essel Group had tried and tested the technology in the Indian market and received negative feedback.

Jainhits will reportedly invest about Rs 250 crore in the first two phases, and offer the set-top boxes at Rs 950. The company expects to sell three million STBs in the initial phase after its launch in November. Also, it plans to mobilise about Rs 1,500 crore over a span of five years. Within one year of its launch, the platform will evolve into a multi-screen service.

To start with, the company has targeted the local cable operators (LCOs) to partner with and have a database of over 60,000 operators across India. The first phase of the channel will make available about 200 channels, both standard definition and high definition, while from the second phase onwards, the company will expand the number to 500 channels.

Also, the company has announced the sharing of the carriage fees with the LCOs and head-end operators. Moreover, it aims to be in no direct contact with the end consumer. Even the centralised customer care call centres will redirect the calls to the concerned LCOs.

It was also stated that though the partners, Motorola, Intelsat and Kit Digital, don't have equity holdings, they have commercial commitment towards the venture. Motorola is the end-to-end technology partner, KIT digital is the solution architect and managed services partner, and Intelsat is the satellite provider for the Jainhits service.

Ankur Jain, managing director, Jainhits, says, "Today, there are about seven DTH operators, 60,000 cable operators and about 6,000 headend operators who connect over 120 million TV homes. With Jainhits, the national digitisation infrastructure expenditure on network can be reduced from Rs 30,000 crore to Rs 1,500 crore. We will operate the latest technology in DVB S2 MPEG 4 quality over satellite, followed by DVBC transmission for cable. These technologies are more suited for broadcast than IPTV and DTH as they are weather-proof, capacity efficient and can run 1,000 channels, unlike DTH and IPTV."

He adds that even if a single stream is divided all across the nation, the LCOs will be able to beam their local channels through Jainhits connected homes since it provides few EPG channels that are left blank for the LCOs.

Kevin Keefe, vice-president and general manager, sales, Asia Pacific, Motorola Mobility, says, "It is an interesting time in India as the country gears up to have digital cable revolution. As a global company, we are excited to be a part of this revolution and bring in all our experience to ensure that the Indian consumers get the best TV viewing experience in the world."

NSTPL signed a multi-year, multi-transponder agreement for C-band capacity on Intelsat 902. The company plans to use the capacity to create a white label, turnkey channel package (Jainhits) that can be received and distributed by multiple system and local cable operators throughout the country.

The company acquired the HITS technology licence in 2003, while the frequencies were allocated in early 2012. The licence agreement is for 10 years, with an extension clause of 10 more years.

While speaking about the digitisation deadline, Jain says, "We tried to get started a little earlier so that we could've participated in the first phase preparations as well. But we are sure that the customers in metros, too, will opt for HITS, whenever they feel like changing the STBs."

Stephane Thibault, managing sales director, media services, Asia, Intelsat, says, "This will be a game changer in India. The cable distribution market is flourishing and millions of people in India watch TV via cable. With cable going digital soon in the country, it makes sense to implement HITS technology. Intelsat's satellites and video services enable new and innovative platforms that can efficiently reach consumers in regions of the world such as India."

Jainhits officials also explain that other than the HITS technology, each network headend requires an investment of about Rs 3-4 crore to get digitised, which is a larger cost for the LCOs. While with HITS, this cost comes down to Rs 15 lakh.

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