Technology

Cas: MSOs strain to meet demand for boxes













MUMBAI/DELHI: Multi-system operators (MSOs) are under stress and strain to meet the demand for set-top boxes (STBs) as conditional access system (Cas) has come into effect in the notified areas of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.


"We are moving 5000-6000 STBs a day in Mumbai," says IndusInd Media and Communications Ltd. director-in- charge Ravi Mansukhani.


Wire & Wireless India Ltd CEO Jagjit Singh Kohli says that while he can‘t give a number in terms of the number of boxes being seeded, business has been brisk and smooth. "There have not been any technical glitches. The Cas deployments in the notified areas by all the cable operators has so far been much more than what direct-to-home (DTH) has achieved in these pockets.".

 

For those who are taking the boxes, MSOs are providing all the pay channels for a trial period of 15 days. "We want to give them some time before they can decide on the channels that they want to pay for. After this period, they can choose what they want and they will be billed only for what they have decided to take," says Mansukhani.


Adds WWIL executive vice president Arvind Mohan: "This is a transition period, so we are giving all the channels to all the STB subscribers. The processing of the forms being filled up takes some time. We are giving the subscribers a free run of all the channels. By 15 January, the entire system will be in place, and billing will be for the month depending on the channels they have selected."


So how long does it take once a consumer orders for a STB? With so many people wanting a box at the same time, the maximum time it would take to get the system installed is a day as it has to be fed into the smart card and billing system, says Mansukhani.


Interestingly, there are indications that at the ground level there is some confusion in terms of pricing. For instance, this writer, residing in the Colaba area of South Mumbai, paid Rs 2000 on 1 January for a box while the MSO had recently announced a reduction in the price to Rs 1500. "There are some confusions still prevailing on the ground about the prices and packages on offer," admits a local cable operator.

 

Speaking on behalf of the broadcasters, Star India‘s distribution head Tony D‘Silva says that it is too soon to comment on the adoption rate. "We had expected that there would be some confusion. We are adopting a wait and watch policy. In a few days time the situation should be clear."


Zee Turner CEO Arun Poddar says that there is certainly a demand and supply mismatch across all the MSOs. He concedes some last mile operators would not be communicating adequately with consumers, thus leading to confusion.


Despite some confusion, the Cas rollout in South Delhi is happening steadily as there is a rush for the STBs.


SN Sharma of Hathway denied that there is any shortage of boxes. "This is a continuous process and we are getting consignments from our Korea company on a daily basis. There is a lag of time for getting connected because the local cable operator has a manpower shortage," he says.


The time between a request coming in and a box being connected is about an hour, he adds. "The LCOs have about five or six people working, who have to attend to calls for repairs, collect payments and also deploy the boxes. So the connection giving ability is in the same ratio as the staff strength."


According to RWA president GS Gulati, most of the residents in Delhi were still waiting and have not subscribed to either cable or DTH operators. "The cable operator has left a box for me at my shop, but I have not got connected, because we do not know what is better, this or DTH."


In some areas, people complained about technical glitches. Sometime during the evening of 1 January, Cas boxes in some areas of south Delhi went blank for about 10 minutes first, and then intermittently for shorter durations about three times.


"This should not be the case, because the boxes are highly efficient. This must be some fault like a loose connection or a person tinkering too much with the remote control, as people do with all new things," Sharma says.

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