Dish TV, India’s first DTH operator and part of the Essel Zee group of Subash Chandra, has finally come out with its ‘cam module’ that allows consumers of other DTH operators to also watch Dish TV channels on their existing equipment.
The Cam Module (see picture) is inserted into the ‘cam slot’ located just above or below the slot where the smart-card is inserted.
The Cam module, called Dish Freedom, is basically a authentication system. Once the user is authenticated by the Cam module, it sends the signal to the existing set top box (of other companies) which then process the signal and send it to the TV.
The release of the product is likely to stir up a lot of controversy because most of the current operators force subscribers to continuously recharge by disabling their set top box once the validity of the existing recharge amount expires.
Now, customers can avoid recharging their existing subscription and choose to watch Dish channels only, by inserting the CAM module. In most cases, however, subscribers may have to get their existing Dish re-aligned (turned) towards the Dish TV satellites to get the signal reception.
However, in some cases, they can watch both the existing service as well as Dish TV through the CAM module.
The use of CAM module (Dish Freedom) is not illegal, as India’s DTH laws make it obligatory for DTH operators to sell only ‘re-usable’ equipment to their subscribers. The DTH boxes must have a Cam module as well.
During the early days, when the subscriber did not recharge on time, the set top box was not disabled. In other words, he could continue to watch the ‘free’ channels. Later, as competition became rampant, many DTH operators started disabling or locking up the set top box when the subscription expired.
As a result, it is not clear if the insertion of Dish TV’s cam module will prevent the box from being locked up by the locking signal from the satellite. However, in case the dish is re-aligned away from the original provider’s satellite and turned towards Dish TV’s, the original provider will not be able to send the ‘locking signal’ either.
The downside of Dish Freedom offer is that it costs as much as getting a new connection, Rs 990. However, it offers much more than a typical new connection. For example, one year’s subscription to the basic package ‘Freedom Pack’ is included.
The Cam market is inherently favorable to Dish TV and Tata Sky, both of which use the older MPEG-2 standard of transmission. All other players use the MPEG-4 standard. As a result, an MPEG2-based Cam service can work on the boxes of Reliance Big TV, Airtel Digital, Sun Direct, Videocon (all of which use MPEG-4), but the reverse is not true.
In other words, if Reliance or Airtel wants to sell their own Cams, they will have to sell it to other MPEG-4 players as the ordinary boxes provided by Dish and Tata Sky do not have the ability to decode MPEG-4 signals.
“TRAI mandates interoperability in the DTH licencing norms and it is obligatory for all operators to offer interoperable set top boxes. Being the trend setters in the industry, we are proud to launch the country’s first CAM device that will be a momentous landmark in the Indian DTH chapter.” said Jawahar Goel, Managing Director, Dish TV India.
It is estimated that around 20% of the 33 million DTH subscribers in the country (almost as big as any DTH operator) are ‘inactive’, with their boxes lying idle.
“This is a substantial dormant market segment that we will target as our customer base for ‘Dish Freedom’. Being the only player offering CAM services, we aim to add the inactive base in metros and smaller cities to our over 11 million strong family,” said Salil Kapoor, COO, Dish TV India.