Airtel Digital to continue HD channel additions, says no spectrum constraint

Bharti Airtel CEO Gopal Vittal said his company’s DTH service, Airtel Digital, will continue adding new HD channels and was not facing any capacity constraints in this regard.

Addressing investor queries after the company’s quarterly results announcement, Vittal said Airtel Digital has around 75 HD channels as of now.

“We will be beefing up HD channels,” Vittal said, when asked if Airtel Digital was feeling a lack of resources as it expands it channel portfolio.

“There are no capacity constraints really, that limit these,” he added.

Airtel Digital used to be, at one time, among the top providers of HD channels in India.

Today, it is well behind Tata Sky, which has around 89 HD channels.

While Airtel has been the clear No.2 in HD for several years, its position has come under threat in recent weeks from a rapidly expanding Sun Direct. Boosted by new capacity on a new satellite, Sun Direct has in recent days increased its HD channel count to 72 from around 15 in early 2017.

Airtel too has benefited from extra capacity at its satellite location with the addition of SES-9 satellite to augment capacity on the SES-7.

Vittal also said the company will continue to invest in expanding the online app Airtel TV.

The platform, he said has around 350 channels right now.

He said the company has not decided about what to do when the free period gets over for Airtel TV in another two months. “We will take a call in June,” he added.

The CEO also said that Airtel currently has around 26-27 mln monthly active customers for its content apps. The total number of wireless broadband subscribers on the mobile network is 77 mln.