Cable TV

Television needs to reposition as convergence source with digitisation

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MUMBAI: Digitisation of cable TV has provided television broadcasting industry an opportunity to reposition itself as a convergence source. The future is full of opportunities for everyone, according to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India member R K Arnold.

Every stakeholder will benefit once the process of digitisation is complete. Thirty per cent of cable TV homes have been digitised in Phase I and Phase II.

“There are (a total of) 100 million cable TV homes. Once all these homes are digitised, we will be able to provide broadband services,” said Arnold said in his keynote address at the CASBAA India Forum 2014.

Arnold is confident of achieving 100 per cent digitisation in 2014 itself.

Arnold also spoke on the Direct-to-Home (DTH) players. “While DTH has grown along with digitisation, they do not have two-way communication as required for broadband,” he said.

The first two phases of digitization has brought the multi-system operators in direct contact with 30 million customers. “This makes it necessary that we are more customer oriented. We need to beef up customer service delivery, and that is a challenge,” said Hathway Cable & Datacom MD & CEO Jagdish Kumar.

According to Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) secretary general Shailesh Shah, deploying infrastructure is challenging but is doable. “For full digitisation, analogue switch offs are needed,” said Shah.

Shah expects digitisation to be completed only by the middle or towards the end of 2015. Phase III of digitisation is mandated to be completed by the end of September 2014 and Phase IV by the end of December 2014.

One of the biggest challenges for multi-system operators in achieving digitisation in phase III and phase IV is that they will need to reach cable TV homes in the smaller towns and villages, unlike in the top 42 cities in Phase I and Phase II where they already had substantial presence.

“Connectivity is a huge challenge,” said Hathway’s Kumar.

The MSOs have in all seeded 30 million Set Top Boxes (STBs) in phase I and phase II. “As a community, we have spent close to Rs 3,000 crore. When any industry makes such a huge investment, the repayment time is 4-5 years. We are trying to change the system, and it will not happen in a year or two,” informed Kumar.

Turner International India south Asia MD Siddharth Jain feels broadcasters will have the fruits of digitisation only after a beginning is made for signing deals on the basis of per STB.

“The broadcasters currently do not have the count of STBs. There needs to be complete transparency,” Jain said.

The total funding needed for deploying STBs in phase III and IV is Rs 14,000 crore. “It is impossible to expect the MSOs to invest in both the STBs and optical fibre. The government has to help in this infrastructure,” said MyBox Technologies CEO Amit Kharabanda.

To promote better content carriage in the rural areas, the government is implementing a National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project to connect all the 2.5 lakh gram panchayats.

“When we had a meeting with the MSOs, we found several gaps. Now NOFN is planning to expand its network from the district level to the block level and then panchayats. If this happens, in the next 2 years, we will see different ways of carrying content,” said Ministry of Information & Broadcasting joint secretary-broadcasting Supriya Sahu.

The industry stakeholders speaking at the CASBAA India Forum also suggested that for smooth completion of digitisation, phase III and phase IV digitization should not be taken up simultaneously.

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