Comparison between DTH (Direct to Home) and cable TV

Many years back up to now to watch cable television, local cable operators in your area were the only option. But with the advent of DTH (Direct To Home) technology, players like Tata Sky, Dish TV, Big TV etc have changed the cable television world. Intent behind this article is to compare these two technologies while looking into pros and cons of for both.


The world of television has undergone a huge evolution right from the days of Doordarshan to cable television telecasting private channels. In our age we used to get satisfied by watching two or three doordarshan TV channels. We did not have an option to watch other channels in those days. But then the things changed and advent of cable television made it possible to watch a whole lot of private and foreign TV channels. These channels encompassed wide categories like music, entertainment, sports, news, movies etc and gave viewers a bouquet of channels to choose from.
Presently there are two technologies in cable television world. One is DTH (Direct To Home) and other cable television provided by local cable operators. Without going into much technical details I will try to compare both of them from the layman's perspective, along with their pros and cons.

DTH versus local cable operators

  • Broadcast technology
  • Local cable operators use coaxial cables to transmit cable television signals from their receiving office to the customer home premises. Receiving office in turn gets signals from satellite through parabolic dish antennas. On the other hand in DTH there is no cable operators office involved. Subscribers have small dish antennas installed on their terrace which receives signals directly from the satellite which are then transmitted to the subscriber's home.

  • Picture quality
  • In terms of picture quality DTH is superior compared to local cable operator. Reason for this is that in case of cable operators there will be many kilometers of coaxial cable running from cable operators main receiving office to your house. This long stretch of coaxial cable involved causes signal attenuation which deteriorates picture quality. While in the case of DTH only small portion of cable is involved from terrace dish antenna to customer's home, hence attenuation is comparatively less resulting in improved picture quality.

  • Cost effectiveness
  • As far as cost effectiveness is concerned cable operators win over DTH. If you have a connection from local cable operator then for monthly payment of approx Rs 300-350 you get to watch majority of the channels, barring a few of them. Hence it proves to be more cost effective. On the contrary in DTH channel packages are costly and you need to choose the package that suits your needs. Even after selecting the required package you still may not get all the channels you want. So you need to top it up with individual channels. In DTH if you go for a mega pack which contains all the channels then it comes to about Rs 600 per month which is quite costly compared to the local cable operator.

  • Flexibility
  • In spite of being somewhat costly DTH offers better flexibility to the customers in regard to which channels they want to watch and which not. So customers can customize their package and only pay for the channels they watch. Also if a customer wants to add particular channel of his interest then this is very easily done in DTH. In case of local cable operators customer has to pay for bouquet of channels shown and pay a fixed monthly cost. They cannot reduce number of channels from it and pay less as this sort of flexibility may not be available with local cable operators. Also if a customer wants to add particular channel of interest then cable operator may not agree to provide it.

  • Weather effect
  • One of the major drawback of DTH technology is that it gives rise to signal fading when it rains, so telecast is disrupted temporarily during rains and heavy cloudiness. This is because signals which are received from the satellite to the dish antenna on terrace undergoes fading causing signal level to drop. Local cable operators are at advantage in this regard as this kind of signal loss during rains and cloudiness is not observed in their network.

  • Regional and local channels
  • For the viewers who are interested in watching the regional, local news and channels for the region they are staying at, cable operator is a better choice. This is because cable operator is likely to cover most of the local channels compared to DTH. In DTH many local channels may not be available for viewing as not all the local and regional channel broadcasters choose to beam their channels to DTH satellite. They chose to do this based on popularity and viewership of the channel. On the other hand DTH is very convenient for those viewers who are not staying in their native place but still want to watch channels of their own native place. For example a Bengali family living in Kerala, cable operators in Kerala will not provide Bengali channels. But if they are having DTH then they are free to choose a Bengali regional pack and enjoy their regional channels. This is because DTH works countrywide and they provide all indian channels and you just need to subscribe for it.

  • Portability
  • DTH is more useful as far as portability is concerned as same companies like Dish TV, Tata Sky, Videocon D2H, Sun Direct etc are present throughout the country. In case of change in city or area people can carry the satellite dish antenna and STB along with them and get it installed at new location. This is not possible with cable operators as each area within the city is served by different cable operator. Even between the cities there is no link between cable operators providing service in different areas of respective cities.

  • Advanced features
  • In DTH viewers get many advanced features and services like interactive TV, Video on demand etc which are not available with local cable operators. Hence DTH gives subscribers a good all round viewing experience.

  • Maintenance and service
  • In case of disruption of services due to some technical issues, local cable operators are more approachable and user can expect fast turnaround time for problem resolution. Also it is less likely that cable operator will charge the customer for rectifying their problems. Things in this regard go a bit worse in case of DTH as it takes about 2 to 3 working days for service technicians to visit the premises and that too in many cases service charge is levied on customers to rectify the problem.

  • Monopoly factor
  • DTH market is highly competitive with many companies in operation which gives customers a choice. If they are not satisfied with services of any DTH company, they can easily switch to another company. While in the case of cable operators, for any one area in a city usually there is only a single cable operator which is allowed to give the service.Cable operators are not allowed to enter into each other's geographic service areas. This creates a sort of monopoly as even if you are not satisfied with the service of your cable operator you have no option to change the cable operator in your area as they will not allow other cable operators in their own area. You can of course switch to DTH but if you are not willing to go for DTH then you have no choice but to compromise with your existing cable operator.


Though both these technologies are present today, DTH is slowly gaining more and more preference nowadays in households compared to the cable operators. People find it hasslefree to have their own infrastructure at home with DTH so that they can control their viewing and are not left to mercy of the cable operators. Also in isolated places away from the city and in hilly terrains cable operators find difficult to extend cables, so DTH is ideal choice in such cases. So if we talk about modern day viewing of cable television then DTH has become a preferred choice for the majority of the viewers. Slowly and steadily I feel cable operators business in coming down.


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