Telecom companies can’t be more frustratingly unavailable when you need internet on the go.

But Arun, a 59-year-old farmer and local businessman in Jalandhar, Punjab watches glitch-free agricultural programmes on a mobile application where internet connectivity is patchy. Arun, though, doesn’t use data to stream content. He has been live streaming television on his smartphone, on his business travels across Punjab, in trains and buses, for more than a year now. His two sons use the same application to watch cricket matches.

Yes, watching TV on smartphones sans internet is a reality in India, and the infrastructure is being put in place by the country’s public broadcaster Prasar Bharati, which runs All India Radio and Doordarshan (DD)—a network of 23 television channels. Digital terrestrial transmission (DTT)—a technology by which consumers can receive TV channels via radio waves, on smartphones or tablets without data consumption—is the tech making this possible. The app is called TV-On-Go.

Supriya Sahu, director general of Doordarshan, is convinced DTT is a compelling proposition with the increasing number of users consuming content online. “In rural areas, the aspirational value of smartphones and online content is much higher. DTT is an offering that will address the entertainment needs of the users who find it difficult to spend money on the internet every month,” she says.

With the price of data hitting rock bottom (thanks to telco Reliance Jio), typical urban consumers, such as you and I, have access to just about any app we want. We subscribe to over-the-top (OTT) video platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hotstar where we can download or stream content. But think of rural or sub-urban India. Bandwidth is scarce and priorities are different. Digital terrestrial technology is Doordarshan’s OTT-alternative for rural India.

DD’s Digital Dance

Doordarshan tried to stay relevant through the 90s. But with the onset of the millennium, it lost the TV game to private broadcasters—no DD channel features in the list of top 10 most-watched TV channels. Now, it wants to tap into rural mobile consumers before the video streaming applications do. It wants to do this without getting into the data game. Why? Because terrestrial technology is the monopoly of Prasar Bharati and outside the ambit of private players. Legally, only the public broadcaster can use terrestrial technology to transmit TV channels and no private company is allowed. While the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has made multiple recommendations to the government to open DTT to private companies, the technology has remained exclusive to Doordarshan, so far.

DD Free Dish

Doordarshan also operates a free-to-air DTH platform, DD Free Dish—the policy on which is under review with the information and broadcasting ministry (I&B)

DTT is a vital part of Asian countries’ media development, says John Medeiros, chief policy officer at Cable and Satellite Broadcasting Association of Asia (CASBAA), a Hong Kong-based media organisation for the Asia-Pacific region.  

AUTHOR

Harveen Ahluwalia

In her last assignment, Harveen was at Mint, the business daily published by HT Media. At Mint, where she spent about two years, she wrote stories on retail, food and the media business. Harveen is a B.Com (H) graduate from Shri Ram College of Commerce, University of Delhi. She has a diploma in journalism from the Times School of Journalism. Like many folks at The Ken, Harveen talks and tweets a lot. When she isn’t writing or reading, she likes to sketch and doodle. She can be reached at harveen at the-ken dot com.

View Full Profile

Subscribe to read this story

The Ken is the only business subscription you need. Questions?

 

Premium

  • 5 original and reported longform business stories every week
  • Access to ONLY India edition
  • Close to 250 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters
  • 4 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to ONLY Southeast Asia edition
  • Close to 200 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to all paywalled stories since March 2020
  • Pick up to 5 premium subscriber newsletters

Rs. 2,750 /year

$ 120 /year

India Edition
Subscribe Subscribe
Most Asked For

Borderless

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories

Rs. 4,200 /year

Subscribe
 

Echelon

  • 8 original and reported longform business stories each week
  • Access to both India and Southeast Asia editions
  • Close to 400 exclusive stories every year
  • Full access to over 5 years of paywalled stories across India and Southeast Asia
  • Unlimited access to all premium subscriber newsletters
  • Visual Stories
  • Bonus annual gift subscription
  • Priority access to all new products and features

Rs. 8,474 /year

Subscribe
Or

Questions?

What kind of subscription plans do you offer?

We have three types of subscriptions
- Premium which gives you access to either the India or the Southeast Asia edition.
- Borderless which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions
- Echelon which gives you complete access to The Ken across both editions along with a bonus gift subscription

What do I get if I subscribe?

The Premium edition gives you access to stories in that edition along with any five subscriber-only newsletters of your choice.

The Borderless and Echelon subscription gives you complete access to The Ken across editions and unlimited access to as many newsletters as you like.

What topics do you usually write about?

We publish sharp, original and reported stories on technology, business and healthcare. Our stories are forward-looking, analytical and directional — supported by data, visualisations and infographics. We use language and narrative that is accessible to even lay readers. And we optimise for quality over quantity, every single time.

Our specialised subscriber-only newsletters are written by our expert, award-winning journalists and cover a range of topics across finance, retail, clean energy, cryptocurrency, ed-tech and many more.

How many newsletters do you have?

We are constantly adding specialised subscriber-only newsletters all the time. All of these are written by our team of award-winning journalists on a specialised topic.

You can see the list of newsletters that we publish over here.

Does a Premium subscription to your Indian edition get me access to the Southeast Asia edition? Or vice-versa?

Afraid not. Each edition is separate with its own subscription plan. The India edition publishes stories focused on India. The Southeast Asia edition is focused on Southeast Asia. We may occasionally cross-publish stories from one edition to the other.

We recommend the Borderless or the Echelon Plan which will give you access to stories across both editions.

Do you have a mobile app?

Yes! We have a top-rated mobile app on both iOS and Android which allows you to read on-the-go and has some amazing features like the ability to bookmark stories, save on your device, dark mode, and much more. It’s really the best way to read The Ken.

Is there a free trial?

You can sign up for a free account to experience The Ken and understand our products better. We’ll send you some free stories and newsletters occasionally, and you can access our archive of previously published free stories. You can stay on the free account as long as you’d like.

The vast majority of our stories, articles and newsletters can be accessed only by a paid subscription.

Do you offer any discounts?

Sorry, no. Our journalism is funded completely by our subscribers. We believe that quality journalism comes at a price, and readers trust and pay us so that we can remain independent.

Do you offer refunds?

No. We allow you to sample our journalism for free before signing up, and after you do, we stand by its quality. But we do not offer refunds.

I am facing some trouble purchasing a subscription. What can I do?

Just write to us at [email protected] with details. We’ll help you out.

I have a few more questions. How can I reach out to you?

Sure. Just email us at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter.