Cable TV

Kolkata MSOs to increase channel package rates

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KOLKATA: A revision in channel package rates is on the cards following the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) directions to multi system operators (MSOs) last week to ensure delivery of bills to subscribers by hand, post or email as opted for by them, and provide within 45 days an online payment option in their subscriber management system (SMS) for subscribers to pay their bills in the first phase of the digital addressable system (DAS).

However, the percentage by which channel package rates will go up is not exactly known.

Kolkata has nearly 30 lakh cable homes and till mid-January, MSOs were issuing ad-hoc bills to subscribers. According to several LCOs, despite having implemented gross (consumer) billing in the Kolkata Municipal Area (KMA) since January, end consumers are not willing to pay billed amounts to LCOs.

When contacted, Siticable Kolkata director Suresh Sethia said, “Package rates will soon be revised. There are instances where consumers are not getting bills from LCOs. The law of the land is the same for everyone. So, we have to courier bills to end users and this involves costs.”

“We are happy that TRAI is trying to make the system more transparent,” Sethia added.

An MSO on condition of anonymity said, “We will have to depute collection agents and provide them with a salary or collection commission, whatever they think is better as LCOs are not able to collect money from end consumers. But we can’t use this as an excuse and will ensure we adhere to the TRAI rules, however cash-strapped we are.”

A cable expert expressed the view that package rates will have to be increased as post implementation of DAS broadcasters have started bargaining a lot and have proposed to charge a much higher rate than before.

“MSOs are bound to increase the price as they have to show the bill and pay the tax on that. Also, to follow the new bill delivery system of the TRAI, additional costs will be incurred in terms of software development and manpower. To justify that, they may increase the price,” said Incubators Group chairman Kaushlendra Singh Sengar.

Sengar informed that the Regulator had also asked MSOs to ensure that an electronic acknowledgement is sent to subscribers on their registered mobile numbers or email addresses within 30 days of making the payment to the service provider.

A cable analyst, Mrinal Chatterjee, begged to differ, “Cable TV operation is not telecom operation. Here, LCOs also work. MSOs have no network of their own but depend on last mile connectors. Customers are the clients of the LMO, so how can MSOs send bills to them?”

Other industry sources argued that some MSOs didn’t even have an SMS in place so how could they start an online payment option in the SMS.

Still other sources opined that MSOs and LCOs need to address the issues together. “Now it seems the authorities want to remove the LCOs from this trade altogether, but it is not that easy to do so,” said an LCO on condition of anonymity.

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