Airtel Digital TV: Channel Change Time Too Long

I am looking to get rid of my old cable connection and go in for a DTH connection. The reasons are well known and I need not elaborate again!

So I did a review of all the available options:

  • DD Direct Plus was not even considered.
  • Zee Dish TV was ruled out after seeing the kind of reviews its getting here and on other sites (I can’t believe SRK is still associated with such a pathetic product!). That’s too bad because cost wise its channel packages are significantly cheaper than those of its competitors.
  • Reliance Big TV was also ruled out because I don’t trust anything that comes from the Reliance stable (except their stocks, because they know how to make money for themselves and therefore for their shareholders)
  • Sun Direct seems promising at an initial investment of only Rs. 499, but there too little information available about it. All that I know is from its website and even that confuses me because there are too many channel packages.

That leaves only Tata Sky and Airtel Digital TV for consideration.

Airtel Digital TV STB

We have Tata Sky in our office cafeteria since a few years. It is very good in every way. The channels are very clear, the channel guide is very well designed (by NDS), informative and easy to navigate. It tells you clearly the current and future programs and timings and you can set reminders. The set-top box (STB) is simple and elegant with minimal buttons for the important functions. Even the remote is very well designed.

On the other hand, Airtel Digital TV is the newest entrant on the block. It comes packed with some revolutionary features like WorldSpace radio, a well designed universal remote, an equally snazzy STB, a larger dish antenna, and the Airtel Live feature that allows us to book movie tickets, watch live traffic conditions, watch movie on demand, has an online shopping cart, etc. Even here, the menus are nicely designed (by Infosys) and look cool. Click here to read my earlier review on Airtel Digital TV.

So what’s the problem?

Well, there’s a very basic problem! I went for a demo of Airtel Digital TV and I found that changing channels simply takes too long! It takes about 2-3 seconds for the channel to change once you press the Ch+ or Ch- key! Compare this with Tata Sky, where the channel changes in under 1 second, just as it would on a regular TV with good old cable.

I for one am very disappointed! But for this basic and very important issue, Airtel Digital TV would have been perfect! I seriously can’t believe that Airtel chose to launch a STB that has all sorts of fancy features but takes too long to change a channel! I mean, isn’t this what do you do most when you watch TV? What’s the use of all the other gimmicks when this basic problem exists? The overall experience is going to be bad!

I’m also surprised that none of the other reviewers of Airtel Digital TV have raised this issue. I’m sure they must have noticed it — it’s impossible to miss! I would love to hear their opinion on this.

P. S. The other issue is that Airtel’s DTH service is quite expensive, though unfortunately it looks like Tata Sky has surpassed them in this too! They must look at reducing their channel package prices. It would cost you around Rs. 370 to get all the English and Hindi channels available. The same would cost around Rs. 420 on Tata Sky. Both are heavily charging for the sports channels (Zee Sports is not available on Tata Sky).



  1. Arun PrasadArun Prasad09-09-2012

    Forget 2-3 seconds, the channel does not change even!!! Pathetic! So disappointing!!

  2. vivekvivek11-06-2010

    i haven’t witnessed ADTV but wid videocon its the same problem , actually in Videocon tym frame is larger than 4 sec for a channel change .
    i believe its becoz of the DVB-S2 technology possesed by only these 2 DTH providers.

    • Vijay PadiyarVijay Padiyar11-06-2010

      Makes sense. I had that doubt too.

      There is always going to be *some* delay when the channel is changed, because the system has to wait for the next complete picture frame, i.e. the I-frame, to arrive for the new channel. (In an MPEG-2 transmission, there are a few I-frames interspersed by P-frames which only have the differential information from the I-frame.)

      I guess on a MPEG-4 DVB-S2 system, the I-frames are perhaps spaced further apart (to achieve more compression), and so the delay is higher as the system has to wait longer to retrieve the next I-frame.



  3. vikasvikas07-18-2010

    I totally agree. TV is meant for surfing channels and in the airtel it takes more than 3 seconds to change the channel which is very irritating and really takes onto your nerves..
    Looking at the prices of TataSky I will stick to my cable for Rs 200 per month.

  4. Abhinaba HazraAbhinaba Hazra12-03-2009

    Yes, i am also completely agree with ur comment. I bought it some 15 days ago & faced same problem (yes,it takes extra times for changing channels,opening the menu & sub-menu options) .Even, some iTV services(iShop,iNet & iNews) did not work properly.The Quick view application of the Airtel Iive also become functionless from 1st day of my Airtel digital tv’s activation.The self service SMS No. 54325 also did not work.
    I bought the Airtel digital tv only for it’s Indian sattelite-INSAT 4CR which is the only Indian sattelite that transmits signal in MPEG-4 DVB-S2 format.

  5. ChavaChava10-22-2009

    Yes i agree with ur comments. Even i have bad experience with their service. I have taken airtel digital tv one month back. The day one onwards some of the channels are not coming properly. I have given complaint and keep on calling them. But after three weeks also no body has come to check the problem. Really frustrated on their service. Customer care people talk recklessly. I felt local cable guys are far far better than airtel in responding to problems and resolving them.

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