Comparison between Airtel Digital TV & Reliance Digital TV

With 38 cities across 15 states on list, the second phase of digitization is on and if you haven't yet switched to a set top box, soon you will have to. Choosing one best DTH connection can be difficult because there are so many options and one does not know how actually they differ from each other. Read our detailed comparison between Airtel Digital TV & Reliance Digital TV along with other DTH options you have.

Readers might agree that Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications are two major corporations in India and have tangled before in endless takeover battles and fights over market share, industry standards and spectrum. But before coming to a comparison between their DTH TV services, let me shed some light on the ongoing digitization drive.

Digitization of TV signals

As per the order of Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Indian television will be completely shifted from analog to digital system. Come June 25 and your cable connection will be cut (in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata & Chennai) if you don't fill the subscriber form.

Gone are the days when your local cable operator wired the television sets with a strand from his web on the roof. Now, you will have to buy a digital set-top box from your cable operator or from DTH service provider to continue watching your TV programs.

Cable operators install multiple dish antennas and pay the television network to receive broadcast from channels. He then clubs these channels into one single wire with different frequencies and connects to multiple TV sets with low or no extra charges.

Back in 2001, government tried to enforce Conditional Access System (CAS) i.e., set top box to protect consumer rights. The idea was that customers should pay for only those channels that they want. Government attempted to bring a scheme called 'Free to Air Channels' and if would have succeeded, subscribers would have enjoyed customized set of channels for as low as Rs 80 but due to issues from cable operators, set top manufacturers and some political parties, it didn't.

The current government policy against the unregulated cable television business in India has given an opportunity to DTH or satellite TV operators to step in. As digitization is gradually carried out in four phases, the whole country would have switched to set top boxes by December 31, 2014. You can get a set top box from your current cable operator or buy one from DTH service providers.

Decoding DTH

Direct to Home Service (DTH) is satellite TV broadcasting directly to consumer's home. Unlike the set top box provided by your cable operator, here you have a personal equipment through which you can communicate directly to your distributor via satellite and stay hassle free from cable-wallas.

With digitization, audio & video quality of your cable TV channels will increase but this can't meet the standard set by high definition programming on DTH services. True HD channels are broadcast usually in 1080i and programmed in Full HD 1080P resolution. In layman's language, HD channels have five times better image and sound quality.

Advantages of DTH

  • Speak directly to the distributor.

  • Watch HD channels.

  • Watch latest movies at less price.

  • Avail facilities like Active/Interactive Services and Movie on Demand. Some service providers even provide Radio service.

  • Save money by using Annual plans and Festival offers.

  • Disadvantages of DTH

  • You miss the local channels offered by cable TV operators.

  • You require additional Digicomp for television sets in different rooms.

  • Signal reception problem during heavy monsoon.

  • Service providers in market

    Currently, there are 6 major DTH service providers: Dish TV, Tata Sky, Sun Direct, Videocon D2H, Reliance Digital TV and Airtel Digital TV. Dish TV was the first entrant in DTH industry and till date, enjoys biggest subscriber base due to the first mover advantage. Other service providers matured later but offer more HD channels, quality of packages and value for money. The DTH subscriber base in the country is expected to rise to 64 million by 2015. In the ever increasing Indian television industry, all the six major DTH operators compete for business. In the annual research report by Singapore based Media Partners Asia's (MPA) Ltd., their popularity graph (as of January 2013) was drawn.
    mkt share of DTH

    Comparison between Airtel Digital TV & Reliance Digital TV

    On 8 October 2008, Bharti Airtel Ltd. launched the much anticipated Airtel Digital TV and started its teaser commercials on national television. The advertisement didn't actually identify the brand and ended with a voice-over saying, "See you at home". Reliance Digital TV, then known as Reliance Big TV, picked up a fight then & there by running similar commercials with that same red sofa setting & voice-over but this time identifying the brand as Reliance Big TV.

    Bharti Airtel was the fifth player in the DTH business after Reliance Communications, Tata Sky Ltd., Dish TV Ltd. and Sun Direct TV Pvt. Ltd. Videocon came later. Airtel offered a universal remote control and 20% wider dish antenna for better reception in monsoons, something which Reliance Digital TV & other DTH operators lacked. The universal remote controls IR frequencies of both the set top box and the TV so that you use one remote instead of two.

    In this time of cut-throat competition, Reliance Communications and Airtel are in talks with south-based Sun Group and Liberty Global respectively to sell their stakes in satellite business. Infact, the reports say that both are looking to exit from this business. Tata Sky and Videocon are also facing similar financial limitations and planning to bring their IPOs in share market.

    On the basis of the parameters given below, let's see how far Reliance and Airtel DTH services have come to impress television viewers.


    The service providers offer digital compression technology so that the platforms can carry more channels without compromising on quality. MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 compression is used. If we talk of technology, both Reliance and Airtel use the advanced MPEG-4 technology unlike Tata Sky and Dish TV which are still stuck to MPEG-2 technology. Unlike Reliance, Airtel also uses DVB S-2 technology which makes it stand out in terms of technology. The DVB S-2 technology offers more interactive services but unfortunately, most customers look unimpressed with the services. Airtel added more interactive services recently. One more thing I would like to mention here is that the set top box used by Reliance gets over-heated fast, hangs quite often and does not work after manual update. The channel navigation is slow and the software unstable. Airtel, on the other hand, offers a sleek set top box that not only looks better but also works better. The STB software is good and customers face no problems. Users get universal remote control so that one single remote can control the TV as well as the set top box.

    Winner: Airtel Digital TV

    Number of channels

    Airtel provides 287 channels whereas Reliance provides 250 channels (excluding HD channels). The set top box of Reliance upgrades the videos to 1080p, higher than Airtel's 1080i and thus Reliance gives 250 HD-like channels but these are not true HD. These are just up-scaled channels. Reliance Digital TV offers maximum number of English and Hindi news channels. It carries some niche channels like NGC Wild, NGC Adventure & NGC Music which are unavailable on Airtel Digital TV. Both the operators carry the newer channels like Colors, Movies Now, Big CBS Love, Big CBS Spark and Big CBS Prime. Reliance Digital TV offers maximum number of channels in its base pack. Its 'select' service allows watching 12 channels at a time while you can watch not more than 8 channels on a screen in case of other operators. On the other hand, the exclusive feature of Airtel Digital TV is the 10 premium World-Space satellite radio channels it offers. After Airtel shifted to the new SES 7 satellite, more number of channels can be added to the platform. Both the operators offer a-la-carte menu so that packages can be tailor-made according to customers' specific requirements. Thus, customers pay only for the channels they want. Reliance Digital TV finally launched this menu after an order by Telecommunications Regulations Authority of India (TRAI) in 2010.

    Coming to the HD channels, Reliance Digital TV offers only 8 true HD channels whereas Airtel offers 14 true HD channels. Airtel offers second highest number of true HD channels after Videocon D2H. This includes all your favorites: Colors, Sony, Star Plus, Zee TV, Discovery, National Geographic, History, Ten, Star Gold, Zee Cinema, Star World, Star Movies, Zee Studio and Movies Now.

    Winner: Airtel Digital TV


    The basic packages of Airtel Digital TV are cheaper than those of Reliance Digital TV. The basic pack of Airtel Digital TV costs Rs.158+ tax in northern India for Value Sports pack and Rs.129+ tax in south for Super Value pack while the basic pack of Reliance Digital TV costs Rs.202 for Silver Value pack in north & south. The channels are priced between Rs.4-Rs.30 each.

    Winner: Airtel Digital TV

    Rain fade

    Other than Tata Sky, all operators perform well in monsoon showers but it is Reliance Digital TV that reports minimum loss of signal even in heavy rains. In most DTHs, loss of signal or black out exists for the entire period of rain while in Reliance Digital TV, it is only for 6-7 seconds. Airtel Digital TV comes with a wide dish antenna for effective signal reception in monsoons and works quite well but Reliance leads the race in this area.

    Winner: Reliance Digital TV

    Portability in automobiles

    Unlike Reliance Digital TV, Airtel Digital TV can be accessed in your automobile so that you get the comfort of TV viewing even when travelling.

    Winner: Airtel Digital TV

    After-sales service

    If after-sales service is an important criterion for your selection, do not go for Reliance Digital TV. People have had bad experiences of incorrect package activation and unprofessional customer care service. Airtel Digital TV, on the other hand, sticks to its claims of 24/7 customer care, online chat and engineer support within 24 hours of complaint. There is a big gap between the after-sales services provided by the two operators and if there is any service provider that leads here after Tata Sky, it's Airtel.

    Winner: Airtel Digital TV

    The competition is tough and every DTH service provider is competing to grab your attention. With 38 cities across 15 states on list, the second phase of digitization is on and if you haven't yet switched to a set top box, soon you will have to. Choosing one best DTH connection can be difficult because there are so many options and one does not know how actually they differ from each other. High Definition STBs and channel packages involving HD channels are more expensive than the Standard Definition ones and you must be well-informed before spending your hard earned money to buy one.

    Thus, in a table below, I have presented a comparison between Reliance Digital TV and Airtel Digital TV along with other options you have.

    My Rating

    If you are a south Indian, you can blindly go for Sun Direct as it offers many regional channels and exclusive offers. For others, I have provided a rating chart here. If I have to give points out of 10, I would rate them as follows:
    table rate DTH

    If I have to buy one, I would consider these DTH services in the decreasing order as below.

    Airtel Digital TV or Videocon D2H > Tata Sky > Dish TV > Reliance Digital TV

    Airtel Digital TV is clearly far better than Reliance Digital TV and unless you have some solid reason for preferring Reliance, I think you should go for Airtel Digital TV.

    Read Airtel Digital TV Review: Is it better than Tata Sky ?

    Related Articles

    Reliance Digital TV versus DishTV DTH

    DishTV is a well known DTH service provider and Reliance Digital TV has become a competition to it. Read the comparison between DishTv and Reliance Digital TV and know the best service provider between the two.

    Reliance digital TV versus Tata Sky DTH TV

    Reliance digital TV and Tata Sky DTH TV, have a tough competition today. Both the companies provide several basic services to customers and to dominate the market they do also provide several other services. Let us have a comparison between these two services Tata Sky and Reliance Digital TV.

    Comparison of Reliance Digital TV with Videocon DTH

    Reliance digital TV and Videocon DTH are two of the leading names in the field of DTH. Both of the providers have attractive packages for their customers. Customers can opt for particular packages depending on their budgets and interests. This post brings detailed comparison between Reliance Digital TV and Videocon DTH.

    Compare Reliance Digital TV and Sun Direct

    In this highly competitive market Reliance Digital and Sun Direct came up with attractive packages for customers. Let us have a comparison betweem Reliance digital TV and Sun Direct TV, two most popular DTH providers in India.

    More articles: Reliance Digital TV DTH Service Providers


    Guest Author: Reliance DTH package28 Sep 2013

    India public-service corporation big Reliance DTH packages Communications is merging its Reliance Digital TV

    Guest Author: Rajan19 Dec 2014

    Excellent comment. Thanks for sharing the information.

    Guest Author: k.mohanachandran17 Apr 2015

    Both DTH service providers should bring all local free channels in regional languages too.

    Guest Author: Amit Goyal03 May 2015


    I wish I had seen this Article before becoming a subscriber of the 12-month long term Gold Pack of Reliance Digital TV.

    Believe me the first and the only thing you should care for while selecting a Digital TV provider is the Quality of After Sales Service. My experience with Reliance Digital TV is so Bad that for 3-4 days at a stretch it does not work. And the After Sales staff right from the Telecallers to the Technicians are downright incompetent and irresponsible.

    I so much wish that I would have gone for some other Digital TV provider. But sadly I am stuck with Reliance.

    Guest Author: aman25 Sep 2015

    Ours is a few years old Reliance Big TV dish. After that some of the new channels have come to India like Comedy Central, Colors Infinity, etc. We dont get to watch them as the Big TV has not registered or bought the subscription for these networks for us. Then we are stuck to the age old channels and are not able to watch new TV networks even if we wish to. Also the subscription rates are higher than the other TV networks like Tata Sky. They have wider channel network and add on packs are very customer friendly and cheaper. They also have cheaper plans whereas Big TV does not have such cheaper plans. Their plans are just more money swindling packs. Customer care is not responsive as well as irresponsible. You just spend your whole life trying to reach them that shows how much complaints they get in a minute! We can neither keep nor sell this set-top box we have got paying RS 3000 etc.

    Beware of fraud! Reliance digital TV is a fraud TV network.

    Once we buy the Reliance dish they don't add new TV networks which are available in India. Once we pay for the recharge they don't respond on the customer care to discuss the channel we want to request to add on our TV.

    1. Certain popular channels are not available in Reliance Big TV menu at all: like Comedy Central, Colors infinity etc

    2. Half the channels they provide on packs are kind of Tele brand networks.

    3. Every plan you need to take via Customer Care and they don't respond to your call immediately. You need days or even weeks to reach them and once you do that, you are not provided proper services and also they drop your calls purposely.

    4. Once you take the yearly plan, for example bronze plan, which says they provide one regional plan for free but they don't. After one year you realize your money is deducted from your yearly balance. Thus your yearly plan is not for a year but it lasts for 6-8 months only. You pay for one yr and you are forced to recharge after 6-8 months so thus they loot your money. When asked they reply that you watched other regional channels!!

    5. Finally, most of the channels you get in these basic packs are useless, which you don't watch which is on air - only Telebrand kind of shows.

    So, in short, you get Reliance Big TV and you are in a mess!

    Guest Author: Himanshu Makkar03 Oct 2015

    Reliance provides India's worst after sales service. Everything after sale is chargeable, even talking to them! They have worst and most rude people sitting there as executives and believe me they are the most arrogant people I have ever talked to. I will never buy anything from Reliance due to a very very bad experience of buying two broadband internet connections and two Reliance digital TVs from them.

  • Do not include your name, "with regards" etc in the comment. Write detailed comment, relevant to the topic.
  • No HTML formatting and links to other web sites are allowed.
  • This is a strictly moderated site. Absolutely no spam allowed.
  • Name: