In fact HD may be the silver bullet which helps DTH win over its competitors like analog and digital cable and IPTV. Analog and Digital Cable TV may be cheaper but the quality is also worse and HD as of now is available effectively only through DTH.
If you do have one of these flat panels, It’s criminal not to have at the minimum – a High definition set top box. With regular old analog cable or even with a standard definition set top box – The picture quality on a flat panel is terrible. In fact these new televisions when paired with SD boxes, have worse picture than our trusty old CRT’s of yesteryear. But sadly I see this combination in too many installations. The reasons for this bad quality are many – First and foremost regular old TV has an aspect ratio of 4:3 which is squished into 16:9 in these panels. Then there is the artifacts of digital compression which look worse when they are blown up, like they are on a flat panel. TV companies for their part have done a lot of work to make the picture look less terrible – But there is only so much that they can do.
So if you do want some good picture quality, at the minimum you need a High Definition box. This box helps in two ways. First instead of connecting to your TV over an analog convertor, It connects to your TV over a high-definition convertor, Second even for SD content, it does up-conversion which makes it look far better. On an average HD boxes cost between Rs. 250-400 more than their SD counterparts and are usually worth it.
Already have DTH but not HD? You can upgrade from SD to HD which costs around Rs. 1000. It costs more if you decide to go from SD to a HD recorder box.
What what about HD channels? As it turns out you will only notice the difference between SD channels and HD channels if your TV is big enough. If your TV is less than 32 inches in size, often the clarity in the picture quality is not visible. There is still a difference when it comes for example to sports or news viewing. HD allows broadcasters to show a bigger picture – a wide shot of the cricket action for example or smaller space to those pesky news tickers. But as my mom put it – there is no real difference between watching a Saas-Bahu soap in SD or in HD (on a small TV).
The biggest criticism of HD has been the limited channel selection available. But that is mostly a thing of the past. Most sports, entertainment and movie channels have launched HD variants. The second criticism of HD content is that it is expensive, For that you need to understand the difference between the packages.
Tatasky has the concept of the “HD Access Fee”. This means you can choose any pack you want and if you want to make it HD, You just pay the HD access fee which is currently Rs. 125 a month. Don’t watch HD channels? Cancel the HD access. Other operators have separate packages for HD and SD. Based on Komparify data, the difference between a SD package and its equivalent HD package can be as low as Rs. 50 or as high as Rs. 200 per month varying from package to package. In both cases discounts are available if you prepay for multiple months.
The Future :
Videocon already has 3D ready boxes through which you can watch 3D content on your 3D television. The problem is the dearth of 3D content. Undeterred both Videocon and Tata sky have announced that they are going to launch 4K boxes soon. This will again go through the chicken and egg problem of getting 4K content onto 4K set Top Boxes into 4K televisions all of which require a critical mass of subscribers. Interestingly enough the first DTH operator to launch HD was surprise surprise – Sun Direct DTH !
Jigar Doshi is the Co-Founder of Komparify - A site which lets you find the best DTH package or set top box.