These are the first free 4K channels that can be accessed from India easily.
Each frame in a UHD video contains 8 mln dots, compared to 2 mln in Full HD and 0.4 mln in standard definition transmission.
Before this, the only other free UHD channel that could be watched in India was the NASA channel, which contains largely scientific content.
All these free 4K channels in India can be watched only using a set-top-box that supports ‘C Band’ frequencies and a dish antenna that is at least 4-6 feet in diameter.
NASA’s channel is available from the Asiasat 4 satellite, which is placed above the Pacific Ocean on India’s East.
In contrast, the seven new FTV channels are being beamed from Apstar 7 satellite, which is placed right over India, making it likely that these channels could be watched with even a 4.0-4.5 feet dish, especially in Southern areas like Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
The seven channels cater to different areas of fashion, such as photoshoots, films, make-up, men’s fashion, ‘midnite secrets’ and events.
The channels utilize the latest video compression technology called HEVC or H.265 to reduce the amount of bandwidth needed for transmitting UHD content.
At present, no Indian DTH or satellite operator uses HEVC, which reduces bandwidth requirements by about 40-45% compared to MPEG-4. Nearly all transmission in India occurs in either the MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 standard.
On the downside, this also means that the new channels cannot be watched using most of the satellite receivers and set-top-boxes available in the market today.
4K satellite receivers with HEVC support currently costs around Rs 4,500 in India, compared with just Rs 1,000-1,300 for HD receivers with MPEG-4 support.
However, cheaper HEVC models with 4K support can be purchased from international e-commerce websites.
The new FTV channels can be received in India, Pakistan, China, the entire Middle East, East Africa and South East Asia.
Adjacent regions like Russia, rest of Africa, Europe and Australia can also receive them by using a larger dish antenna (see picture).
While C Band channels used to be very popular in India up till about ten years ago, the explosion of Ku-band services has diminished their appeal.
C Band transmissions have the advantage of covering very large areas — such as the whole of Asia and Africa — with one beam, while Ku-band services typically cover only a specific region such as South Asia or China.
However, Ku Band signals can be received using a 2-feet antenna, while C-band requires a 4-feet antenna when the signals are very powerful, and 5-8 feet in most other cases.
Most of the Ku-band channels in India are encrypted and users require smartcards from companies such as Tata Sky and Dish TV to watch these services.
Some Ku band services, like ‘Free Dish’ offered by DD and by ABS, are transmitted without encryption and can be watched free of cost.
In contrast, a larger proportion of C Band channels are available free of cost and un-encrypted, but the number of C-band channels available from one single location tends to be around 40-100, while a single satellite often transmits 500-1000 channels in Ku band.