Cable ops seek digitisation extension, Bombay HC to hear plea on 29 Oct

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: Just three days before the four metros move towards digital cable, a clutch of cable operators will have their petition heard in the Bombay High Court on 29 October seeking extension on the ground that they need more time to get their networks up and running.

They will argue that digital set-top boxes (STBs) have not reached a large number of consumer homes and they are yet to get the channels from broadcasters for carrying on their cable networks for their subscribers to watch.

“We will seek for more time as 1 November is too short a period to sort out a myriad of issues. The STB penetration is not what the government is stating. We haven’t got the decoders from broadcasters. How can we run our businesses? There should be an extension of the digitisation deadline,” said Kuldeep Puri, a promoter of Hathway Bhawani Cabletel & Datacom.

Among the petitioners are the Puri brothers and Paresh Thakkar, both associated with Hathway Cable & Datacom. The operators are from the eastern suburbs of Mumbai like Chembur, Ghatkopar and Govandi.

“We have signed with IndiaCast and have finalised terms with OneAlliance and Media Pro Enterprise India. But the decoders have not reached us,” said Kuldeep Puri.

The petitioners want time so that new entrants would be given a fair opportunity to set up their independent ventures.

The Puri brothers are planning to set up an independent operation outside their joint venture with Hathway Cable & Datacom. They will have Ericsson as their digital head-end while Sumavision Technologies will provide the encryption solution. They own 12 per cent stake in Hathway Bhawani Cabletel & Datacom, according to data available till 30 September 2012.

“Our joint venture arrangement continues. Hathway has also agreed that we can go ahead and independently run our operations to tap other subscribers,” said Kuldeep Puri.

The government has claimed that the average percentage in the four metros of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai had touched 85 per cent and goes up to 90 per cent if direct-to-home (DTH) is taken into consideration. Mumbai, according to the government, has achieved nearly 100 per cent digitisation. These figures, however, have been hotly contested by the cable operators. Other stakeholders also find it difficult to believe the government figures, though they are not open about it.

Thakkar has said that television sets going blank from 1 November may result in a law and order problem and also create a hazard for the operators.

The petition also says that there is still no clear picture on the monthly subscription bill of cable TV subscribers after the switch over to digital reception of cable television.

The government has mandated compulsory switch over to digital delivery of cable television from 1 November in the four metros of Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata.

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