Airtel finally launched its nationwide DTH service on October 9, 2008. Called Airtel Digital TV, this boasts of some radical new features such as:
- 20% larger dish antenna for better reception during rains and bad weather
- Universal remote to control both the Set Top Box (STB) and TV
- MPEG-4 broadcast with DVB S2 technology to give 175+ channels
- Integrated World Space radio
- Interactive applications through Airtel Live feature on the STB
- On-screen account meter and low battery indicator
- Games with high quality graphics, refreshed every six weeks
I was really looking forward to the launch of Airtel’s DTH service. They have been doing very well in the mobile and fixed telephony and broadband market. I am using both these services and am quite satisfied with the service as well as the customer support and online services. I was hoping that, given their prior experience in these markets and in dealing with customers, they would’ve handled things better as compared to Zee’s Dish TV and Reliance Big TV who have made a mess of managing new and existing connections due to their terribly poor customer service.
Considering all this, for me the launch has been a disappointing experience for the following reasons:
1. Airtel Digital TV’s TV advertisement was out a week or so before the official launch on October 9. It’s a rather grand ad featuring several well-known celebrities. Surprisingly however, there was no official website, nor was there even a mention of Airtel Digital TV on Airtel’s website! All that was given was a toll-free number: 1800-102-8080.
2. They did finally launch their website (http://www.airtel.in/digitaltv) exactly on October 9, but it is very poorly designed and the pages take too long to open during daytime. Moreover, one encounters all sorts of technical errors while browsing the site, and the channel packages don’t show many of the channels since some of the images don’t load properly (see below).
Not only this, there is also no information about monthly charges of various channel packages and top-ups on the website. The only information that’s there is about the introductory offers (ranging from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 3500 depending on the package). But what about the charges after that? Don’t customers need to know that? The only way to get this information is to email them (more on this below).
3. The website said that customers can approach any of the Airtel Relationship Centers from October 9 to get information about Airtel Digital TV. However, October 9 was a holiday in India because of Vijay Dashmi/Dusshera and the Relationship Centers were closed! What a joke!
4. When I went there the next day, they just noted down my name and mobile number and said an executive would contact me within a day. They didn’t even have a brochure! And needless to say, the phone call never came…
5. Side by side, I also mailed firstname.lastname@example.org to get more information and they mailed back with details about their channel packages. These, however, seem different from the ones listed on the website. Also, the top end Platinum pack is a tad too expensive at Rs. 424 a month, considering the next best option is the Gold pack at Rs. 249! That’s a difference of Rs. 175 for just 23 channels, not all of which are relevant (see below).
Below is the information on channel packages that I received via mail from Airtel Digital TV customer care (click on the images to enlarge):
Hope this information helps! I’m posting it here because I didn’t find it on any other website as of today. Also hope Airtel pulls up its socks and rectifies its website soon, because that is the most important route of information dissemination. A great TV advert is useless if you don’t back it up with a good, informative website as well as brochures (and ideally demo equipment too) in Relationship Centres.
I have no comment whatsoever to make on the installation procedure or the quality of Airtel Digital TV service, as I have not had the pleasure of getting it installed yet. I would love to go for it but not unless I see a demo, either in an Airtel showroom or in some other electronics store. That’s not happened so far…