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Bangalore India
A good DTH Alternative
Aug 24, 2006 05:02 PM 13651 Views

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Tata Sky have certainly drawn some attention with their ad blitz. We bought into the excitement, and here is what you can expect. Being my first attempt at a review, bear with me while I take you through our experience at installation and usage.

Their site is basic & quite informative, and is a good start point for the lowdown on DTH. If you are like me living out life w/o CAS, update yourself on DTH. Be patient as the site updates frequently. This was our first stop to check out the channels, dealer network, pricing (barely mentioned) and installation. I'll touch on each of these and then write a few words on our experience.

Channels :The number varies between 50-70. The usual Star, Sony & sports (+Ten Sports) as also news channels, Discovery & NatGeo are all there. The list is on the website. Coupla biggies I miss are HBO, Hallmark, Z-Movies, CNN, BBC, CNN-IBN, CNBC, Cartoon Network. But these channels (+SUN & Zee channels) are supposed to be added during this trial period. In the last few days we have had a coupla DD & regional channels added (there's an alert system that informs u, or I'd never have noticed).

Dealer Network :On I-Day we first checked out the dealer network in Bangalore. Online, search on State, City & not Location (we found Indiranagar spelt Inradnagar sometimes) and your best bet is the local electronics retailer - in our area it was the biggies Pai & VGP. Though Viveks strangely was not there. The dealers have a Tatasky demo jockey @ the store, they are otherwise clueless. You have to buy the settop, and they inform TataSky to schedule an installation. They give u a time, in our case they turned up only 2-3 days from the date of picking up the settop. Teething troubles ?Payment : The dealer also gives you a voucher (scratch-card) for Rs1000 -for installation & 550-the first recarge (good to go for little < 3 months). Currently all channels are activated, & once the new bundles are launched, you will pay through these vouchers, for your selection. It's a quaint pre-paid system, ala SIM recharge. You buy this scratch-card at the local retailer and call Tata Sky IVRS, and are guided to enter the 16-digit number. The cool thing is the confirmation then comes through the Alert system on the settop, and shows when the next recharge is due. The basic package is compulsory (and should be hopefully retained at around 200+pm). Then there are the 'bundles' and Pay-per-view requests. there will also be a website, and local Associate u can call who will also attend to special requests (for Pay-per-view Showcase events), but I've seen nothing up on the website yet). Showcase events will be like ESPN coverage of the Natwest series, but there's a minimum period during which you have to remain subscribed. I can't say I know how this will all work (not yet activated), but the idea sounds cool, esp if they activate that web interface. BTW, the Cust care is based out of Bangalore, so whatever!!

Installation:So you go home with the settop, the Digicard (which is a subscriber ID kinda card, never removed), and these 2 scratchcards. The engineer brings the minidish (60 cm) and a roll of cable to install on the roof / window. Be careful where you place the dish, as it points SE, and should be above obvious obstructions (coconut tree / apartment in our case). The engineer comes with a 'Sat meter' to take correct readings. Bit of trial & error, and if you are not lucky with a good installation jock, this can take awhile. Once installation is complete, they take a reading (signal strength > 80%), then call Tata-Sky to activate. The digicard/Digibox numbers are crucial here. And remember to enter your Home phone & Mobile numbers in the formthey ask u to fill. these registered numbers save u some time on the IVRS / helpline. Some of the other Qs are just plain silly.

If you want multi-room / share a dish across apartments, remember the 60-cm dish is good to go for upto 4 settops. You will need the larger 90cm for anything above that. I don't recall any significant savings. They change the thingy on the dish that concentrates the signals, and of course they save on laying all that cable. But you will need to pay the 3K for a settop for each TV (as it connects to only one RF / RCA settop).

Coupla things I liked-

Digital is WOWsey. I've seen CAS in chennai & this is better (it's almost digital quality & little interference even in a storm). Audio is not that great even after wiring it thru' my amp, but atleast it retains the volume across channels.

Realtime programme schedules The real power of DTH is knowing what u are watching, and when your favorite show comes on next. Also the banner idea is great, as u can set it to slide in/out every 3sec. Great when u hv the remote & can cruise the movie timings while wifey is absorbed in Friends. However not all channels carry the name of the program

The Language optionon Cartoon channels / NatGeo actually works. So we can see Tom & Jerry with Telugu voiceover and this can be changed quickly to Tamil / Hindi.

PIP - Good ol' PIP exists in the form of 4 PIP windows (aka Active channels). Cool when u want to watch Sports, or News and want to switch the audio around w/o exiting PIP. Only problem is this takes a coupla seconds to get activated. It would be WOW if they allowed users to have some choice on those PIP windows. Star News gets a different treatment, if u follow that format of news. It's quite cool on Sports, with highlights playing in a seperate PIP. But once the Natwest series got over, they just disabled it.

Demo- OK, I'm no great fan of manuals, so the demo channel gets a thumbs up(if u can stand ol' Rags & her bubbly sidekick) to get the gist of how to handle that remote. May not be for you, but it sure beats having to explain the system to wifey or every walk-in.

Favorites- The channels from 900-990 store your favorites. Believe me, you'll quickly tire of using the Guide to swap from LOST to Rockstar.

Dislikes :The remote cannot be used to switch off the TV. Apparently u cannot program a Universal remote either. This is a bloody pain, as you have to dig out the TV remote.

Organizer : Surely this was conceived by a Windows prog'r; with all those sub-sub menus, it takes any number of clicks to put a simple reminder or change the damn favorites.

Overall, we're happy to be rid of the cable guy. We''ve had few service interruptions, There's talk of bundles taking the monthly bill >400 bucks, but I guess we will live without some of the premier stuff if it's overpriced.

Competition : Dish TV, through the local cable guy 70 - 110 channels, for Rs200 - 300.Even with the regulator ruling that content must be shared, u have greedy broadcasters.So if you can live on a steady diet of news, K-serials etc, you're the better man. I need a sports fix ever so often!

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