Cable TV

DAS Phase III: Govt. insists 76% STB seeding; stakeholders claim huge shortage

 NEW DELHI: The Government has claimed that the percentage achievement of coverage of Digital Addressable System (DAS) Phase III so far is 76 per cent, even as reports from multisystem and local cable operators in various states alleged there was huge shortage of set top boxes.
In fact, the 13th Task Force meeting – the last to be held before the deadline of 31 December – was told that the percentage achievement was 86.25 if Tamil Nadu that has some legal and other issues is excluded. The meeting was told there were only 405 zero seeding areas till the last report.
But reports from MSOs and LCOs to from various parts of the country including Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal said there is acute shortage of set top boxes (STBs) and indicated under 50 per cent seeding.
In the 13th Task Force meeting presided over Special Secretary J S Mathur, Joint Secretary (Broadcasting) R Jaya said the number of urban areas to be digitised in Phase lll after updation of 27 States/UTs is 6016. While changes had been made in some urban states on the basis of reports from some state governments and union territories, comments were still awaited from the States/UTs of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Lakshdweep and Dadra Nagar Haveli. 
Out of the 685 areas including West Bengal (where 280 areas were removed soon after the Task Force meeting), 450 areas had less than 1000 TV households and 226 from 1000 to 5000 TV households.
Jaya said out of 510 MSOs registered for Phase lll areas as on the date of the meeting, only 190 MSOs are entering seeding data in the Management Information System (MIS). A total of 135 MSOs have still not logged into MIS and 185 MSOs have logged but have not reported any seeding. She said the Ministry had granted 567 registrations so far. Ninety applications are under process and 35 applications are pending clarifications. Affidavits are awaited from 170 applicants. About 100 applications were received in November and December. 
She said the Home Ministry in July 2015 decided that no security clearance was deemed for issue of registration to MSOs. Since this would involve amendment in the rules, till that time, provisional registrations are being issued by the Ministry. The Joint Secretary further mentioned that the applications are still being received and in some cases the registrations are pending for want of documents. She also mentioned that as informed in the PowerPoint presentation made at the meeting, the MSO dark areas were minimal. 
A Toll free facility has been operational for the last two months and an average of about 500 calls are being received every day over the last 10 days. 
About 400 officers from AIR and Doordarshan have been nominated to inspect the headends of MSOs and in this regard inspection reports have already been received from 50 officers. 
Shortage of STBs and their delivery and pending interconnect agreements with broadcasters as reported by some MSOs, were also mentioned. It was informed that requests had been received from Uttarakhand, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra and some MSOs for extension in cut-off date for Phase lll of digitisation. 
It was also pointed out that seeding data received from direct to home (DTH) operators was based on PIN codes of places. DTH operators were requested to confirm their data as per the urban areas notified by the Ministry to confirm correct seeding status in Phase lll areas. 
The representative of DTH mentioned that they have at present 16 million active set top boxes and another two million STBs, which shall be activated soon after the 31 December timeline in Phase lll areas. He added that apart from this, four million STBs are catered to by DD Freedish and another eight million by digital cable. He said the the seeding data for each notified phase lll urban area would be sent very shortly. He stated that the data for seeding of 16 million STBs may be taken. 
It was decided that the seeding data may be accepted. Jaya said the data for two million STBs to be activated after the cut-off date shall however be included only after report of their activation is finally received. 
A representative of Ortel Communications mentioned that due to component shortage with STB manufacturers, the delivery of STBs ordered by them is affected despite advance payment made by them. He added that they have seeded 30 per cent of STBs so far and have a stock of about 20 per cent. 
Mathur said the notification for the cut-off date for Phase lll had been issued on 11 September, 2014, which was more than a year ago. Further, several awareness campaigns, Task Force and MSO sub-group meetings and orientation workshops for the State and district Nodal officers have been held during this period. In addition concerned officials of the State Governments including the Chief Secretaries have been sensitised from time to time on the importance of the initiative. Hence there was no case whatsoever to consider any extension in the cut-off date. 
On a query by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) representative about 700 MSOs have single headend for both final phases, Jaya said an advisory was issued to all registered MSOs informing them that in case they have a single control room for Phase lll and Phase lV areas, they must take separate lRDs from broadcasters for taking digital signals in Phase lll areas and analogue signal in Phase lV areas. 
A representative of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said it was made clear in all meetings that analogue signals can not be transmitted in Phase lll areas after 31 December, 2015. MSOs and broadcasters were required to make arrangements in advance for feeding Phase lll and Phase lV areas. He added that as per the interconnect regulations analogue transmission is permitted in Phase lV areas and MSOs and broadcasters should find a technological solution to the problem of segregating the feeds from the same control room. 
When the IBF representative apprehended piracy problems in Phase lll areas, he was told the broadcasters must take action as per the law against those indulging in piracy. He was told that it is their responsibility to ensure that analogue signals are not transmitted in Phase lll areas without affecting transmission of analogue signals in Phase lV areas. 
He was also told that the Ministry will write to all State/UT Governments to take action against those violating the law. Jaya remarked that broadcasters have to cancel the agreements entered by them for analogue signals in Phase lll areas.
The Maharashtra government representative said difficulties have been reported from the field in implementing digitisation in the state within the timelines. 
The Maharashtra Cable Operators Federation representative said about 60 per cent areas in Maharashtra are not served by the national MSOs. He said about one million STBs are to be seeded, which is not possible. He added that 40 registrations are pending to be issued by Ministry. 
A representative of consumer organisation Savera said consumers were facing difficulties in redressal of their complaints from the MSOs/LCOs, and suggested the Consumer Affairs Ministry be added for redressal of the complaints. He also suggested that the Ministry may hold workshops on cable TV digitisation in all districts for awareness of the consumers. He was told that 11 workshops were held by Ministry for implementation of Phase lll and similar workshops have been planned to be held in Phase lV also. Besides, five advertisements on separate dates were issued in newspapers pan-India and both News and general entertainment channels (GECs) have been carrying ads and scrolls accordingly for information of all.

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