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NEW DELHI: The Indian government has admitted that inadequate capacity on Indian satellites has compelled domestic direct to home (DTH) operators to use a large number of transponders on foreign satellites and that India’s space agency Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is gearing up to meet growing demands owing to proliferation of HD TV channels.

“Presently DTH services are being supported by 42 transponders on indigenous satellites (INSAT/GSAT) and about 69 transponders on foreign satellites. There is a registered demand of additional about 64 transponders for immediate future,” junior minister at Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) Rajyavardhan Rathore informed fellow parliamentarians in Lok Sabha or the Lower House of Parliament recently.

Without stating it in so many words though, Rathore said that as ISRO increases its satellite capacity to be able to meet the demands of Indian DTH operators, a migration from foreign satellites would become a reality --- a move that MIB and Department of Space are slowly implementing to nudge users of satellite services, especially TV channels, to move away from non-Indian birds.

“It is expected that over a period of next three years adequate capacity would be added through Indian satellites to facilitate migration of foreign capacity to Indian [satellite] capacity,” the minister said, adding, according to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) data, there has been a significant growth in the number of high definition (HD) satellite TV channels. The number has grown from three in 2010 to 83 in 2017.

Dwelling on TRAI’s recommendations on sharing of infrastructure on a voluntary basis, Rathore clarified that till date MIB has not received any proposal from DTH operators for sharing of satellite transponders and earth station facilities with another such player or distribution platforms. “Enabling sharing of infrastructure may address the issue of demand-supply mismatch and reduce capital and operating expenditure of the service provider to an appreciable extent,” he added.

Meanwhile, addressing another set of queries raised by parliamentarians relating to DTH, the minister said a total number of 1922 complaints/grievances against private DTH service providers were received through monitoring systems of the government and TRAI over the last three years on various issues ranging from technical/financial/policy matters to delay or improper installation, malfunctioning of STBs, issues of interoperability, disruption of signals during bad weather, improper billing, channel packaging, FTA channels, etc. As many as 1811 complaints were addressed by MIB till date.

As soon as complaints are received, they are brought to the attention of the DTH operator concerned and later a follow-up action too is undertaken to evaluate compliance and whether the problems were resolved or not, the minister explained.

According to the minister, sector regulator TRAI had issued last year a set of tariff guidelines to boost healthy competition among DTH service providers and bring down the subscription prices for consumers. The guidelines were legally contested by some stakeholders and are awaiting judicial advice, he added.

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