With the FIFA World Cup fever on, all major DTH providers jumped on the HD broadcasting bandwagon. But is it the right time for you to buy a HD set-top box yet?
India HD services were a long awaited dream for many in India. HD or High definition services have been available in US for a long time now, but despite having a huge customer base, major DTH providers had remained away from giving its subscribers the HD facility.
Sun Direct was the first to introduce HD services to India. However, a very high price for their DTH service kept several subscribers from accepting their offer. Then came Reliance BIG TV with its HD DTH service. Reliance is the first company to offer an HD set-top box along with recording facility. With the onset of FIFA world Cup 2010, demand for HD was at its peak. Quite naturally, the major DTH providers, Dish TV, Tata Sky and Airtel launched its HD services recently.
The only difference in the HD services being offered by various DTH providers is in the resolution. Basically, High Definition services are offered in two formats: 720p and 1080i. A 720p signal is made up of 720 horizontal lines. Each frame is displayed for 1/30th of a second in a progressive scan (p). It’s similar to watching 30 photographs per second. A 1080i signal has 1080 horizontal lines instead of the 720 in 720p signals. But all the lines are not displayed on-screen simultaneously. Instead, they are interlaced (i), which means every other line is displayed for 1/60th of a second and then the alternate lines are displayed for 1/60th of a second. So, the frame rate is still 30 frames per second, but each frame is split into two fields, which your brain then puts together subconsciously.
But is the HD set-top box really useful for you as of today? Here are some facts: to watch the HD signal you need to have a High Definition Tv, which is still not found in most Indian homes. Besides, most DTH providers are providing just 3-4 channels on the HD platform and all others are still being shown on the normal SD resolution. The HD boxes are also not readily available and expect lot of harassment by the customer care, even after you have paid the money, to actually receive your box.
We applied for our Tata Sky HD box in Delhi on 26th June through the Tata Sky customer care and paid through the credit card on phone itself. We were given a wait time of 5 days. When we called back on 7th day, we were told Sat-Sun came in the middle and hence the delay. Finally on 8th day we received a call informing us of the availability of the box, but the dealer said he has a huge rush and won’t deliver that day. Football matches were racing past daily, and we did the obvious thing. Took the address, went there ourselves and took the box from the dealer. Came back home and we installed it by adding the card from old digicamp into this new box, the installation part being very simple. Once installed, we called up the dealer and got the connection activated, the HD channels got activated about 16 hrs later.
Consider this: Tata Sky offers its HD set top box for Rs. 2,599 and the HD package for Rs. 30 a month. It’s HD package contains just 4 channels as of now: Discovery HD, Nat Geo HD, Star Sports HD and ESPN HD. To make it worse, The ESPN and Star Sports HD services are running only for the durations of FIFA World Cup 2010 and Wimbledon only. The irony is on the Men’s Wimbledon finals day on July 4th, Tata Sky blacked out the Star Sports HD Channel. Every subscriber got the message saying that the channel is not part of the subscription package. By the time Wimbledon finished, the Star Sports HD channel had vanished. So, as of now, Tata Sky is just showing 3 channels in HD, off which ESPN will only be in HD for 2-3 hrs a day and only till 11th July. Not really a value for money deal, is it?
HD broadcasting requires a lot of Govt approvals, and obviously that is one major hindrance stopping these providers to give its customers more full-time Indian HD channels. Indian HD channels like Colors and UTV channels have already been shooting their programs in HD formats and as soon as the providers are ready, they’d be able to beam the HD content. But don’t expect to get more channels coming to HD very soon.
So, our verdict is that for now, it’s better to wait. Let them launch few more full-time channels and let the prices stabilize, then go for it.