Sun Direct, the DTH service from Sun Network, has been allocated 144 MHz of spectrum on the recently launched Measat-3B satellite which will enable service to add 20 new HD and 100 new standard definition channels.
A social media user by the name of ‘Raja Chennai‘ shared a screenshot of the application made by the company informing the Department of Telecom about the allocation of new satellite capacity.
In the application, the company is shown informing the DoT that four new transponders of 36 MHz each has been allocated to it by the Department of Space for use on its DTH service.
Under Indian laws, companies are not allowed to buy satellite capacity directly from overseas providers. Instead, they have to put a request to the Department of Space, which then allocates the spectrum on its own satellites if possible, or on foreign satellites if not.
Sun Direct has been facing a severe spectrum crunch due to a fire on an ISRO satellite that knocked out most of its satellite capacity in 2010.
The fire forced the company to move satellite to Malaysian-owned Measat 3A, and manually realign the dish antennae of millions of its customers.
Some relief was in sight when Measat launched a second satellite at the same location in 2014, boosting capacity.
Sun Direct was widely expected to book extra capacity on the new satellite, particularly after it lost a sharing deal two months ago with Reliance Digital TV. Reliance Digital TV changed hands when the Anil Ambani Group sold it to another group as part of a fire sale.
At present, Sun Direct has among the lowest number of standard-definition channels in India.
It currently has about 200 standard definition channels and 60 high definition channels.
In comparison, Airtel Digital has around 500 standard definition channels and 71 high-definition channels.
Due to the low carrying capacity, Sun Direct has been forced to focus its service on South India, even though its signals are available across the country.
NEW CHANNELS SOON
The approval from the Department of Telecom is unlikely to take long and is largely in the nature of a formality.
It is the Department of Space that is in actual charge of allocating frequency in the Ku band, also known as the DTH band.
As such, the DTH service is expected to start adding new channels in a matter of days.
The new capacity is expected to lead to the addition of around 100 new standard-definition channels, while another 50 channels are expected to be moved to it from GSAT 15 — the HD satellite for Sun Direct.
The company was forced to halt its HD channel expansion on GSAT 15 two months ago due to the termination of its channel-sharing deal with Reliance Digital TV, and divert some of the HD capacity to handle the fallout.
It diverted about 25% of its capacity on GSAT 15 to transmit some of the standard-definition channels that were affected by the shutdown of Reliance Digital TV. Some of the affected channels are yet to start retransmission.
Once these channels find a home on the new Measat satellite, Sun Direct will be able to add an extra 20 HD channels to take its total HD channel count to 80, while increasing total SD channel list to about 320.
It is already among the top 3 in India in terms of English and South Indian HD content.