Complete digital switchover by December 2013: Trai

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has set sights on 31 December 2013 as the sunset date for a complete shift from analogue to digital cable, a target that most industry observers feel is impossible to meet in the wake of massive fund requirements and current chaos in the sector.

Making this ‘sunset date‘ announcement for the first time, Trai chairman JS Sarma said: "Digitalisation will happen in a phased manner, and we are looking at a complete switchover from analogue to digital by December 2013. It is an ambitious but achievable target.”

Digitisation would first be prescribed for metros and then move on to urban towns before spreading out to rural centres across the country.
Trai is also expected to file the final consultation paper on digitalisation by next week.

“We are forward looking and proactive on regulation on digitalisation. All the industry players have welcomed the regulation by Trai on digitalisation and we are expecting to release the final consultation paper on the same by next week," Sarma said, while addressing the CII Digital Media Conference today via video conferencing.

Den Networks promoter and chairman Sameer Manchanda welcomed the announcement, saying that digitalisation and broadband are the two big issues the government should focus on. "If it (digitalisation) happens, it will be great for the country and viewers," Manchanda said.

When asked if the timeframe is achievable, Manchanda said that "the intent is at least there and that is what counts."

Digicable Network India MD and CEO Jagjit Singh Kohli, however, feels that the target is highly optimistic.

"I do not think it (digitalisation) will happen before 2017. The industry can‘t cope up without any proper plan or incentivisation. Whatever they (government) have done so far is really disappointing," Kohli said.

Kohli also feels there is no good business model for digitisation. "Trai has capped cable TV pricing at Rs 250 in non-Cas areas while there is a forebearance on digital addressable platforms," he elaborated. 
Earlier this month, Trai issued a new tariff order for addressable systems, including digital cable, DTH and IPTV, where it capped the a la carte pricing of channels at 35 per cent of the corresponding price for analogue cable.

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