Airtel has given the hardware for the Digital TV direct to home (DTH) services a major update with the addition of the Xstream 4K Hybrid Box to its lineup of set-top boxes (STBs) already on offer. The Xstream 4K Hybrid Box is a true smart box, running the Android 9 Pie operating system and as one package, offers access to the Digital TV DTH connection as well as streaming services including the likes of Netflix, Amazon Video, Hotstar, YouTube, Voot, Sony Liv, Zee 5, Jio Cinema, Hooq, Hoichoi, Hungama Play and Eros Now. This is priced at Rs 3,999 while certain existing Airtel users can get this for Rs 2,249.
First, what exactly is the Airtel Xstream 4K Hybrid Box? This is perhaps the smartest STB we have seen in the cable TV and DTH space in India, thus far. In many ways, you could even consider this as a logical successor to the Airtel Internet TV STB which had been around for a while now—that launched at Rs 3,499 with one month subscription to the Mega HD Pack included. The primary idea is to bring together the traditional TV broadcast channels via your DTH connection and the new age media consumption patterns of the over the top (OTT) video streaming services such as Amazon Video, Hotstar and Netflix. The fact that the Xstream 4K Hybrid Box runs on Android means you get access to pretty much every app that is built for the platform. The built-in Google Play Store helps with that. That is not all, because on the menu are also voice commands to get Google Assistant to work for you, the ability to control any smart home devices that work with Google Home and the Chromecast feature built in which lets you stream content on your phone to the TV.
The Airtel Xstream 4K Hybrid Box has 2GB of RAM as well as 8GB of internal storage. A lot of Android TV based smart TVs have similar specs, and these should be spot on for slick performance of streaming apps on the STB. There is also a USB 2.0 port and a slot for a memory card up to 128GB in size. This is important to enable the personal video recorder (PVR) functionality if you wish to pause, rewind or record Live TV channel on the Airtel Digital TV DTH connection. Do remember though, the content recorded via the PVR functionality is protected and can only be viewed on this Xstream 4K Hybrid Box.
There is the HDMI 2.0 port which enables the 4K resolution support with compatible TVs. The Airtel Xstream 4K Hybrid Box supports the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi networks and Airtel says this will work with all broadband networks—it is not locked in to the Airtel Broadband service only.
At present, Airtel offers more than 500 TV channels. Add the streaming services to that, and what you get is a rather well-rounded package offering the entire ecosystem of your favorite TV channels and video streaming apps at one place. Airtel also says that there is some amount of artificial intelligence (AI) working in the background which understands our viewing preferences and then offers content recommendations based on that.
Now for the question—how much does this cost you? If you are buying the Airtel Xstream 4K Hybrid Box to use the Airtel Digital TV services for the first time, it will cost you Rs 3,999 to buy this STB. All existing Airtel Digital TV users can upgrade from their existing STB to the Xstream 4K Hybrid Box for Rs 2,249 instead. At this time, Airtel is bundling one year of free subscription to all the Xstream premium content—this would otherwise be priced at Rs 999 per year. If you already are an Airtel Gold or Airtel Platinum user, based on the postpaid mobile, prepaid mobile or broadband subscriptions, this fee for the premium content subscription will remain waived off even after the one-year free subscription period is complete. What is also being bundled right now us a one-month subscription for the HD channels pack for the Airtel Digital TV connection. From what we can check on the Airtel website at the moment, this pack costs Rs 207 per month (before NCF) and bundles 90 SD channels and 15 HD channels.