KOLKATA: The last mile owners (LMOs) in Kolkata are yet again gearing for owning their subscribers. While earlier a group comprising 100 LMOs had announced their plan of setting up their own cooperative, news now is that another set of ‘unhappy LMOs’ in Kolkata has united to set up their own control room and headend.
According to cable TV sources operating in the region, LMOs will declare their plans only after the end of the ongoing 2014 FIFA World Cup. The delay is to ensure that the 33 lakh cable TV subscribers in the area do not see any disruption in their cable TV services, especially during the football World Cup.
The trend of more and more LMOs joining hands to set up their own cooperative has come from the rising concern over MSOs becoming the owners of the subscribers, which according to the LMOs have been owned by them for years. Sources hint that the industry will soon see some major announcements.
Indiantelevision.com was the first to report on how around 100 LMOs in the region had united a few months ago to form a cooperative called ‘Bengal Broadband’. The aim of this was to provide independent cable TV services to customers like any other multi-system operator (MSO), namely SitiCable, Manthan and Incable among others.
‘Bengal Broadband’ aims to start operation in the current fiscal 2014-15 and has already invested around Rs 4.8 crore in setting up the headend equipment and office infrastructure at Salt Lake College More in the city. The cooperative is looking at a subscriber base of one million in the first year of its operations. Not only this, it also aims at providing cable TV connections at a cost which is 15-20 per cent lower than the other MSOs.
While Cable & Broadband Operators Welfare Association convener Swapan Chowdhury refused to comment on any such development, Cable Operators Sangram Committee general secretary Apurba Bhattacharya confirmed the news of LMOs in Kolkata venturing into forming a cooperative. “The operators are happy to get into this space. We will run the business ourselves.”
A LMO, who is a part of the new venture said, “We are setting up our own control room and it will involve a cost of around Rs 1 crore. We will be able to offer services to customers at a cheaper rate. It will be an operators’ driven MSO.”
“During the analogue regime, the revenue share between the MSO and LMO used to be 20:80 but after DAS, it has come down to 65:35. The business model is not at all lucrative. If this continues, we will die and not be able to arrange our daily bread and butter,” added another LMO who is a member of the group that is setting up the control room.
Small operators will become a part of a larger LMO network, said another, without divulging much details.