March 2018


Finally, Doordarshan's FreeDish DTH Platform Is Inching Towards Launching Its MPEG-4 Channels.

Unconfirmed reports are that the first batch of FreeDish MPEG-4 STBs with iCAS will be available in March 2018 - a year later than Doordarshan's earlier promise.

Doordarshan has licensed 11 companies to manufacture FreeDish MPEG- 4 STBs. They include: Modern Communication and Broadcast System (MCBS) Gandhinagar, Velankani Electronics - Bengaluru, BGM Holding Company - Ghaziabad, KMTS Engineering & Millennium Technology in Delhi. The STB manufacturers will coordinate with ByDesign in Bangalore for iCAS integration in their STBs.

Once a sufficient number of these 'authorised' MPEG-4 STBs are seeded in the market, FreeDish will formally launch the service.

All FreeDish MPEG-4 Channels Will Be iCAS Encrypted But Available Free Of Cost To Consumers


FreeDish currently provides 80 TV channels and 30 radio channels through MPEG-2 STBs. The limited number of channels currently available on MPEG-2 compression will continue for atleast a couple of years more.

FreeDish's MPEG-2 Carriage Fee Is More Than 10x The Transponder Cost!

It is planned to introduce additional channels that will be available only to MPEG-4 STB owners. The long term target is to provide 250 channels through the MPEG 4 STBs.

It remains to be seen if broadcasters will pay a significant carriage fee for the encrypted MPEG-4 platform, which will initially haver a very small audience.


FreeDish will deploy the indigenously developed iCAS encryption system, for its MPEG-4 service.

iCAS was funded by the Department of Electronics & Information Technology (DeITY) and developed by ByDesign, Bengaluru.

iCAS is already in operation on 1.25 Million STBs in over 150 networks countrywide.

FreeDish plans to offer over 100 additional channels, using the more efficient MPEG-4 compression. All channels will be encrypted, but will be available free (no charge to the consumer).

iCAS is Already Used In 1.25 Million STBs in 150 Networks Countrywide


Doordarshan has taken a controversial decision to encrypt its MPEG-4 channels, so that they can only be received through 'authorised' satellite receivers.

The aim is to keep a count on how many of these receivers are deployed in the field, which in turn helps FreeDish to better monitise its service via carriage fee it charges channels for carriage.

FreeDish MPEG-4 Service With iCAS Will Start Before End March 2018

Currently, there are only 'guesstimates' regarding the number of FreeDish users, since Doordarshan has no way to know the number of FTA MPEG-2 receivers in Indian homes.

Some guess that there are currently 20 million FreeDish MPEG-2 satellite receivers in use.

These are typically imported from China in huge quantities. However, it's this ease of deployment that enables the FTA MPEG-2 receivers to be retailed at around ₹ 600 each, making them an attractive buy for the rural poor.


Doordarshan has authorised 11 companies to manufacture FreeDish MPEG-4 STBs with iCAS built in.

Reports are DD has fixed an upper limit for the selling price of the STB + Ku band Dish + cable & installation, not to exceed ₹ 2,000.

While this is significantly above the ₹ 600 market price for an MPEG-2 FTA STB, the FreeDish STB will have MPEG-4, built in iCAS, and the product quality will be in accordance with BIS specifications. Each receiver will also bear the FreeDish logo. they will be supported by a 1-year warranty & 5 year after sales support by their respective manufacturers, who have submitted bank guarantees to Doordarshan, for this.

These STBs are comparable in quality with those offered by private sector DTH platforms like TataSky and DishTV.


FreeDish has been testing its MPEG-4 service on the GSAT-15 satellite located at 93.5 degrees East.

MPEG-4 encrypted testing has been ongoing on a GSAT-15 transponder @ 11630 MHz, Vertical polarisation.

Will Encrypted STBs Kill The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs For FreeDish?


The only function of encrypting the FreeDish MPEG-4 STBs is to quantify the number of users. Seasoned industry observers feel that this is inappropriate action, to economically burden millions of rural households to bear an additional cost to receive FTA channels. Will the encrypted FreeDish STB kill the goose that laid golden eggs for DD?

Some consumers may simply turn their dish towards the neighbouring ABS satellite @ 75 degrees East. This satellite also operates a FTA Ku Band platform, currently offering approximately 60 FTA channels.


Unconfirmed reports are that the FreeDish STBs with iCAS will become available in the market, in the current financial year itself, i.e. before end March 2018.

Wide-scale STB deployment may take another 3 months, after which a large number of MPEG-4 channels will be added, and the service declared operational. n