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Videocon, Philips gear up for digitisation minus set-top box

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and are gearing up to usher in a new regime with new models that can receive and broadcast TV signals without a , though a debate over the preparedness of cable operators to migrate to digitisation from July 1 continues to rage.

The two companies are launching light-emitting diode (LED) TVs that will eliminate the need for a set-top box, a device otherwise necessary to receive digital signals in the new regime. This will be the second time that Videocon will take a shot at this; it had launched ‘’ almost five years ago, but these didn’t work in the marketplace.

This time, Videocon has timed the launch when digitisation in the four metros — Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai — is expected to roll out. Persons in the know say the new TVs, which will be priced at a slight premium to regular ones, will hit the market this month, but company director says it’ll happen next month. “We are still finalising the date of the launch,” Dhoot says. “By September, the entire range of these TVs will be out.”

Philips will launch its TVs by next month, says , product manager at PE Electronics, the brand licensee for Philips’ audio-visual products and Electrolux’s home appliances. Pathak is in charge of the TV portfolio for Philips.

Dhoot and Pathak say the price differential between new LEDs and regular ones will be Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000. For instance, a 42-inch new LED from Philips will cost Rs 65,000, while a regular one from the company is available for Rs 63,000.

The technology that will enable Videocon and Philips to launch these new LEDs is called digital direct broadcast (DDB). Pathak says DDB is a TV operating system that allows TV sets compliant with it to perform multiple functions. “Besides eliminating a set-top box, all upgrades can happen easily on these TVs,” he says.

Apart from direct digital transmission, DDB-compliant TVs allow 3D viewing, internet browsing and cloud computing. By cloud computing, the reference here is to computing and storage capacity over a network. End-users access cloud-based applications through a web browser, while the business software and data are stored on servers at a remote location. For cloud computing, an internet connection is a must, which DDB-compliant TVs are able to provide, Pathak says.

While most high-end TVs today double up as personal computers with a virtual keyboard and the TV remote as a mouse, direct digital transmission is something that none has provided so far. Experts say DDB will be a game changer in that sense.

But there are downsides too, point out a few others. DDB works best on the direct-to-home (DTH) platform, not on the cable. Given that the bulk of TV viewing homes continues to use cable, not DTH, the new TVs will not constitute a major portion of the flat-panel TV market, at least for the time being.

The 3.8-million flat-panel TV market is slated to touch five million by the end of the year, buoyed by a surge in demand for LEDs, whose price points are rapidly falling vis-a-vis liquid crystal display TVs, which constitute the bulk of the market.

Videocon, say company officials, will bundle its DTH service as a package with the new TVs for those consumers who do not have a DTH connection. Philips, on the other hand, has tied up with Videocon as its DTH partner.

What is DDB?

Digital direct broadcast, or DDB, is a TV operating system that allows television sets compliant with it to perform multiple functions. This includes direct digital transmission, 3D viewing, internet browsing and cloud computing. The big plus is the elimination of a set-top-box.

The technology works best over direct-to-home (DTH). DDB-compliant TVs will typically receive digital signals directly from the dish antenna and broadcast it. Audio and video quality is said to be better than current cable and DTH transmission.

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