India in commercial satellite club with the launch of INSAT 4A

India spreads across 3,000 km and to reach each and every ‘ village, satellite technology is the only possible way’

 -ISRO chairman Madhavan Nair

 

Salient Features of INSAT 4A:

The 3-tonne satellite is India’s most advanced communications satellite. with 12 KU band and 12 C band transponders,

Will be used for DTH and telecommunications and to monitor natural resources Big money: ISRO will earn

 about Rs 100 crore a year by leasing its transponders to DTH service providers

Elite group: Insat 4-A is as sophisticated as Europe’s ASTRA and American PANAMSAT

Booked: Satellite’s dozen Ku ‘ band transponders leased to Tata Sky for DTH, its 12 C-band transponders will

support telecom and TV players

 

ISRO chairman G. Madhavan Nair, who monitored the launch from Kourou, said: “INSAT-4A is a milestone in ISRO’s history The Ku-band transponders will improve entertainment services in the subcontinent by providing DTH TV broadcast.”

 

For Indian space scientists it was a moment of quiet pride as INSAT-4A, the country’s most advanced communications satellite, was hoisted into space from Kourou, French Guyana, Arianespace’s space port on the equator, on December 22nd 2005 ;

With this satellite, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has shot into a super-league of companies in the global space market -one which was dominated by Europe’s ASTRA and the US’ PANAMSAT. The 3-tonne INSAT 4A, ISRO’s first commercial venture, will help rake in about Rs 100 crore a year by leasing its transponders to DTH service providers and new of telecom and television companies.

 

The satellite’ was booked well before the launch with all its dozen Ku Band transponders leased to Tata Sky; Tata Sky will launch 150 channels from June 2006 using transponders on board the satellite, The 12 C-band transponders, which have a footprint that stretches from East Europe to North west Australia, will support telecom players as well as TV companies with its digital satellite news gathering services. “The entire satellite has been designed for commercial operations,” said; executive director of Antrix Corporation. ISRO’s venture into commercial space is timely- Worldwide, DTH broadcasting accounts for more than half of space service revenues which is where ISRO plans to focus.

 

THE launch of Insat 4A provides an opportunity to enhance competition in the distribution of broadcast services and address issues such as mounting carriage fees charged by cable operators. The government must move swiftly to ready its policy framework when India’s most advanced satellite in the sky gets ready to beam. India’s newest communication satellite, with 12 KU band and 12 C band transponders. This  can transform the entertainment scenario in India. For long, direct-to-home (DTH) service providers have complained about the insufficient number of Ku band transponders on Indian satellites. DTH service providers consider the KU band ideal for commercial launch of DTH services in India. They were also prevented from leasing such transponders on non- ISRO -controlled satellites. However, 12 KU band transponders on the INSAT 4A should be more than enough to kick off full-fledged DTH operations.

 

All this has various implications. One, it will enable players waiting for adequate transponder capacity to quickly launch operations and increase competition in that space. Secondly, a competitive DTH industry will seriously challenge cable. It is true that cable too is currently stifled by tariff controls pending the introduction of an ‘addressable system’. However, large cable operators are perhaps more than making up for it by using the limited capacity in the current analogue mode to extort hefty ‘carriage fees’ from new channels for prime slots. Competition from DTH may even speed up voluntary digitalisation of cable. However, for all this to happen, the government needs to clear the ground for launch of DTH services. One critical step in this process is the un-ambiguous and unconditional implementation of the ‘must carry’ and ‘must provide’ provision for both DTH and cable. Consumers will be grateful if the government or Trai can settle all issues by the time ISRO makes the satellite    fully operational. It is encouraging to note DTH is finally creating its roots in India. Zee’s Dish TV claims adding 3000 connections every day aggregating to a viewership of more than a million as on date. DD DTH also boasts of four million subscribers now, Whtile Tata Sky the DTH company has stared marketing it service which will be available in a few months.