The Hinduja Group announced the launch of its Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS) service NXT Digital and shared details of its offerings to the distribution fraternity in a market of over 110 million analog TV households in India. The roll-out of NXT Digital will be a product that will be primarily targeted at the Last Mile Operators (LMOs) in Phase 3 and 4 of the Digital Addressable Systems (DAS) markets. The group plans to invest $100 million in NXT Digital out of which $80 million has already been invested. They made the announcement after the last license was approved by the government on July 14.
Tony D’Silva, Managing Director, Grant Investrade said, “I am delighted to announce that our HITS initiative is called NXT DIGITAL. We believe it will strongly support the laudable national mission to roll out DAS of broadcasting all over India. DAS will not only empower, inform and entertain the consumers, but, through news, knowledge and infotainment, will help them contribute to societal improvement and national economic growth”. The service will offer 500+ MPEG4 channels to LMOs and the equipment is also built keeping in mind the conditions the rural areas.
“We will roll-out the services in August this year,” D’Silva said. “NXT DIGITAL is here to help the distribution fraternity in analog markets make a smooth and timely transition to digital, and we are hopeful it will help write what could perhaps be the biggest chapter in the Make in India story.”
Satellite-based, NXT DIGITAL will have its footprint across India, and will be able to roll out its offerings across the Nation. However, in view of the deadline for DAS rollout, Grant Investrade Limited is focusing its awareness- and marketing drive on the opportunity to enable the distribution fraternity to provide digital services in the Phase 3 markets.
D’Silva said, “NXT DIGITAL will empower and enable the distribution fraternity including Last Mile Owners(LMOs) and MSOs to offer a world of exciting digital services to their end-subscribers in all the analog households across markets. Crucially, NXT DIGITAL will not only help the LMOs and MSOs go digital as per government mandated standards and within the set deadlines, but, throughout the process, help them be independent and retain the ownership of their network.”
This has been made possible because when work first began on finalizing the NXT DIGITAL offerings, the company undertook in-depth research to find out the requirements of the distribution fraternity. It reached out to over 2000 LMOs, MSOs and their representatives across 120 cities in Phase 3 and 4 markets, and asked each, separately and in person, what they wished they could be able to do with their businesses when it was time to offer television broadcasting – along with other value-added services -- through encrypted digitally addressable systems.
“The research threw up six major requirements of the LMOs and MSOs,” D’Silva said, counting them out. “They wanted to retain ownership of their network; drive broadcaster deals; package and price their offerings according to the needs of their market; they wanted the facility to acquire Set Top Boxes (STBs) according to their convenience; the ability to insert local channels for their end-subscribers, and a sophisticated digital service that could help them compete with other digital platforms like DTH to ensure their digital offerings were future-ready so that their subscriber-bases would only grow.”
“In other words, they wanted to remain independent, own their network, and go digital as per government norms and within the deadlines,” D’Silva said. “That is why we designed NXT DIGITAL to offer a choice of two different service models per their requirements: a white label service model and a full service model.”
By signing up for a NXT DIGITAL service, a network owner in a Phase 3 market can be saved the burden of having to make huge investments in the technology and highly skilled manpower required to convert his analog households to digital. A NXT DIGITAL headend will help them provide 500+ MPEG-4 encrypted services including HD channels with the ability to insert local channels as per requirement, robust SD and HD STBs with PVR functionality, world-class conditional access and subscriber management systems, a 24x7 call centre in multiple languages for customer support, a user-friendly operator terminal and the ability to provide VAS, OTT and other add-on digital services as and when rolled out.
“We will take care of the entire infrastructure and backend including a call centre for customer service, while the network owner can concentrate on growing his business through managing his network, local channels deployment, broadcaster deals and more,” D’Silva said, adding, “Everything we do will be LMO- and MSO-focused.”
World-class technology partners: Some of the world’s most respected brands have partnered GIL to create the NXT Digital offering. These include prominent technology partners like Thaicom-7 for Satellite, C-Band Transponders; Nagravision DLK for CAS-embedded platform; OpenTV1 for Middleware; Hansen Technologies for Subscription Management System and Billing Solutions, and Changhong, Telesystems and others for STBs.
On the technical aspects, D’Silva said, “The planning, design and setup of the entire technology infrastructure of the NXT DIGITAL platform with world-class partners is future-ready and extremely robust, with multiple fail safes, to provide the best digital experiences and customer delight to the subscribers of the LMOs and MSOs. Our HITS platform is of a quality, scale and investment unprecedented in India, and has been made possible by our brilliant technology program managers –CastleMedia Pvt Ltd and its team, led by Mr. Vynsley Fernandes, who has set up several world class operations in broadcasting and digital networks in India and overseas.”
The NXT DIGITAL service will provide Television channels to cable operators through a satellite instead of the traditional cable television headend where multitudes of satellite dishes and antennas are used to grab cable stations from dozens of communication satellites. The low comparative capital investment is expected to be the biggest draw for the network owner, apart from the additional revenue opportunity through VAS services – something which is not possible with DTH. Hence the network owner will no longer have to worry about high investment costs to provide Digitised cable TV services.