DD Free Dish encryption coming soon; box manufacturing starts

Rajyavardhan Rathore, junior minister for information and broadcasting today confirmed that Doordarshan has given permission to eleven companies to manufacture set top boxes with encryption for use on its DTH service DD Free Dish.

The statement confirms that the much delayed encryption of the service is on track and will be implemented once the stock of these set-top boxes starts reaching the market in sufficient numbers.

Once sufficient number of such ‘authorized’ boxes are available, DD Direct Plus will stop broadcasting some of its channels openly, and will encrypt the signals. Initially, channels that are currently using MPEG-4 will be encrypted.

In other words, subscribers who wish to watch all DD Direct Plus channels will have to buy one of the authorized boxes from one of the 11 companies who have been licensed to manufacture them.

At the same time, existing users of DD Direct Plus who do not upgrade their boxes will continue to receive a certain number of channels. Eventually, DD Direct Plus is likely to switch off all open signals and force all subscribers to move to authorized boxes.

The encryption was originally supposed to start in April last year. DD is using an Indian software solution known as iCAS for encoding and decoding the signals.

Rathore said 10 private companies as well as the government-controlled BECIL or Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd have so far been licensed to manufacture the new boxes.

The minister did not give the name of the ten companies.

The move to encrypt the channels is aimed at improving Doordarshan’s revenue.

Once the channels are encrypted, Doordarshan will be able to find out how many people watch its free DTH service.

Based on this number, it will be able to charge money from channels for being part of the service, also known as carriage fee.

However, the move could hurt at least some consumers as a new set-top-box will cost at least Rs 900-1,000.

Some consumers may simply turn their dish towards the neighboring ABS satellite. ABS also has a free DTH service that is transmitted on open signal. However, the number of Hindi channels on ABS is less compared to DD Free Dish, while the number of South and East Indian channels is higher than on DD Free Dish.