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Airtel rolls out DTH in 62 cities

In the history of television content distribution business, the year 2008 will definitely go down as the year of "Direct-To-Home". The year so far has seen three DTH launches already and one more is awaited. The country's largest telecom operator in terms of number of subscriber base, the Sunil Mittal-led Bharti Airtel on Tuesday announced the roll out of its DTH services from October 9, in 62 cities through 21,000 retail points, taking the number of DTH players in the country to five. The group eventually intends to step up its presence to 252 cities, using the 9-lakh potential retail points for doling out DTH services.

Manoj Kohli, CEO and joint managing director, Bharti Airtel said, "This is a major step towards transforming Airtel from just a telecom brand to a lifestyle enabler. The launch of Airtel digital TV is the culmination of our three screens strategy - to be present across mobile phone - the small screen, the computer-mid sized screen and now TV screen - the larger screen".

Commenting on the differentiators, N Arjun, executive director, Bharti Telemedia, said, "Banking on our extensive research, we have zeroed down upon the consumer preferences. Airtel will offer universal remote for both Set Top Box and TV to offer customer convenience, which is a first time in the DTH sector. We will offer 10 world space channels on the platform. We will also offer host of interactive services."

The service provider has opted for a differential pricing for south and rest of the country. The entry level package in south will cost Rs1999 for 12 months while it will cost Rs 2499 for 6 months in the rest of India.

The monthly entry level package in the South will cost Rs 99 while it will cost Rs 249 in the rest of India. Asked about the share of pay channel and free to air channels in the basic packages, Arjun said, "Roughly FTAs will constitute 40% of the package." Company officials claimed that to a great extent the monsoon related DTH problem will be checked by the 20% increase in the size of the dish.

Despite the doubts and apprehensions that analysts and investors have voiced about the sustainability of number of players in the DTH industry, deep-pocketed telecom players have gone on betting big on the sector.

Airtel is the second telecom player to jump into the DTH fray after Anil Ambani led ADAG. Of the 225 million TV households in the country, commercial DTH operators cater to 7.5 million.

Source: The Financial Express

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