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HITS to beam Games to your TV
Come Commonwealth Games, and sport lovers in the country and abroad will get to experience a visual treat on television from a technologically superior platform, head-end in the sky (HITS).

In the next three to six months, HITS operators will be allowed to commence operations after the Centre clears the new licensing policy. A cabinet note has been readied on the HITS licensing policy post-haste and forwarded to cabinet secretary K M Chandrashekar. This is to ensure that the services are available in time for the relay of Commonwealth Games being hosted by Delhi in 2010.

Players’ contingents, their supporters back home and sports enthusiasts the world over would get a digital view from different satellites via the HITS operators, who would relay it to cable operators.

HITS has advanced know-how that can aggregate digital signals from various satellites to make the visual picture available in digital mode through cable operators.

At present, cable operators in most cities relay TV programmes in the technologically inferior analogous mode. Once they switch over to the HITS platform, they will have to be linked through a specialised software to get programme relays.

In some cities, programmes from over 400 TV channels are relayed digitally through six direct-to-home (DTH) operators bypassing the cable operators. The conditional access system (CAS), rolled out in December 2006 in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, also offers TV programmes in digital mode. Digital programmes are being relayed from Chennai since 2003.

While CAS is being extended to 23 other cities, the government proposes to move a step further in the television viewing experience by allowing relay of programmes through HITS, which can also provide extended coverage of TV programmes without any territorial constraints.

Information and broadcasting ministry officials have held extensive discussions with various stakeholders on rolling out HITS licenses. The Cable Operators Federation of India and top brass from Dish TV and Tata Sky are also open to the new platform rollout.

Jawahar Goel, chief executive of Dish TV, in a letter to Asha Swaroop, I &B secretary, has expressed willingness to begin the HITS operations immediately, without even waiting for the new licensing regime.

Former chairman of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Nripendra Misra, said, “the telecom regulatory body had made comprehensive recommendations on HITS two years back. Rollout of this technology would make available another platform for digital relay of TV programmes”.

Against the Trai recommendation of allowing digital signals relay on KU and C bands, the Centre proposes to restrict the relay to more reliable C band. Licenses would be provided after a one-time entry fee of Rs 10 crore apart from compliance with norms on minimum Rs 10 crore net worth. Trai had mooted Rs 40 crore as the minimum net worth required for a company to enter HITS operation. Additionally, HITS licensees will have to fork out Rs 40 crore as refundable performance bank guarantee.

While Trai has mooted uplinking from cities outside India, the government has decided to limit both uplinking and downlinking from within the country. However, the government has agreed to the Trai recommendation that subscriber management system and encryption should be done within the country to ensure “effective control over distribution and monitoring of content”.

None of the broadcasters or cable operators can hold more than 20 per cent equity holding in the company offering HITS services, as per the Centre’s proposal. Once the government formalises the HITS norms, it will bring the country’s 66,000 cable operators under its fold in phases.

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