Summary:

The Union Cabinet today approved information and broadcasting ministry’s guidelines on Headend In The Sky (HITS), a technology that enables…

Ambika Soni
photo: AP Images

The Union Cabinet today approved information and broadcasting ministry’s guidelines on Headend In The Sky (HITS), a technology that enables satellite transmission of digital broadcasting signals. Unlike DTH, or direct-to-home technology, HITS requires last mile cable operators to receive signals and transmit it via cable to the consumer’s home. However, unlike cable, the last mile cable operator does not need to install an expensive headend, or elaborate infrastructure to receive, decode, amplify and transmit TV signals. This can potentially result in lower price for the end consumer.

HITS will likely provide an impetus to digitization through market-based incentives–a cheaper service that provides better picture quality driving adoption–as opposed to policy-mandated digitization, or Conditional Access System. Over a period of time and if it attracts a large number of consumers, HITS might also have a cooling effect on carriage fees, as the wide digital bandwidth of the service will allow greater channel capacity.

The policy guidelines issued today lays down a framework for HITS operators, the equivalent of Multi-System Operators in the cable ecosystem. The service will be allowed in both C-band and Ku band. ‘C’ band is used by traditional cable, while Ku band is used by DTH. Ku band has the disadvantage that it’s not suited for a tropical country like India with high rainfall–signal attenuation aften results in poor service during rains for DTH customers.

Total direct and indirect foreign investment upto 74% will be allowed in HITS companies. However, prior approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board will be required if foreign direct investment in the company exceeds 49%.

Existing permission holders–two so far, including Essel Group–will have to migrate to the new policy regime within three months.

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