Bharti Airtel may be a new kid on the DTH block, but it's giving bigger boy, Tata Sky, a run for its money.
In the Hindustan Times survey, it is very close to Tata Sky in most parameters, and leads in uninterrupted services, complaint redressal, payment options and innovative services.
Bharti Airtel, which launched its services in October 2008, already has 3.3 million customers.
"It (the result of the survey) is not very different from our internal surveys, conducted through outside agencies," said Ajai Puri, director and CEO, DTH, Bharti Airtel. "Though our survey shows that we are slightly ahead of Tata Sky in all important parameters."
Bharti's willingness to invest in technology has also helped. It uses the latest compression technology — MPEG4. (Tata Sky uses MPEG2 technology.) For the operator, this translates into greater efficiency. For subscribers, it means better picture quality.
In the HT survey, it scored 816 points (two points behind Tata Sky) for video and audio quality, and ranked second.
One of the major problems with DTH service is that rain often disturbs the picture quality, and sometimes the picture altogether disappears.
In order to keep the picture smooth during bad weather, Bharti uses DVBS2 technology (Tata Sky uses DVBS), which does a better job of retaining the signal, according to Bharti.
"This (DVBS2) means big investment," said Puri. "Our set-top box is about $8 to $10 (Rs 377 to Rs 471) costlier than other set top boxes."
Airtel's set top box costs about $60 (about Rs 2,828).
Not surprisingly then, in the HT survey, Bharti got 790 points for 'uninterrupted services', and is ranked first.
If the weather is bad at the company's main uplinking site in Manesar, Haryana, Bharti has the option of using its Bangalore site for uplinking. the firm also uses larger, 72-cm sized dishes in rain-prone areas for better signal.
Airtel's DTH service comes via ISRO's powerful INSAT4 C-R satellite.
The company also provides high quality (Dolby) sound to subscribers.
"We are investing (in technology) so that we can provide the best experience to our customers," said Puri. "We added the largest number of customers last year. Every fourth new customer is on our platform."
It also helps that the DTH service provider is a part of India's leading telecom company. "We are leveraging that experience," Puri said.