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DTH growth: ISRO to double transponder capacity to 500
The economy may be witnessing a downturn, but the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is hopeful of registering a 25 per cent top line during 2009-10. During 2008-09, it achieved revenues of Rs 1,000 crore.

Thanks to all the buzz being created about quality digital television, growth in the direct-to-home (DTH) space has been phenomenal, which indirectly helps the ISRO to grow. The five private DTH players have together garnered nearly 16 million consumers and there are at least three more players readying to get into the fray.

ISRO is betting big on its transponder business to help the agency continue to grow rapidly in the future, and it plans to more than double its transponder capacity to 500 by 2012. Each transponder can provide between 15 and 25 television channels on DTH. A DTH operator would require about 6-12 transponders to sustain its commercial operations.

The explosion in the number of DTH players has meant more demand for satellite transponders. This bread and butter business for ISRO contributed 61.20 per cent of ISRO's revenues in financial year 2009, up 50 per cent from the previous year.

G Madhavan Nair, chairman, ISRO; chairman, Space Commission and secretary, Department of Space, said, "We see more potential in the DTH segment. We will progressively increase the transponder capacity to 500 from the present 211 by 2012 through addition of satellites and new frequency bands."

For long, DTH service providers complain about the insufficient number of transponders on Indian satellites. DTH providers consider the KU-band ideal for commercial launch of DTH services in India. They are also prevented from leasing transponders on non-ISRO-controlled satellites.

When asked if the reported delay in launching satellites by the European Space Agency would lead to some orders coming India's way, Madhavan Nair said, "It may lead to more countries using Indian Polar Satellite Landing vehicles. Revenues might also increase on account of increased use of satellite services by DTH and telecom providers."

ISRO will also expand transponder offering to other countries in Africa, West Asia and South-East Asia. At present, it offers services only in India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

"We are now exploring newer markets such as Latin America and Africa in both government and private sector. However, getting growth abroad will take time," Nair added.

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