Countdown begins for Phase II digitisation in 38 cities

NEW DELHI: India is rapidly swinging into digitisation mode. The government on Tuesday started the countdown for second phase of digitisation in 38 cities in 15 states, saying the deadline of 31 March 2013 was sacrosanct.

Information & Broadcasting Secretary Uday Kumar Varma held a high-level meeting to review the preparedness for Phase II encouraged by the successful implementation in Mumbai and Delhi. Digitisation in Kolkata is most likely to happen after Diwali and in Chennai, the fourth metro covered in the first phase, it will be decided by the Madras High Court on Friday.

The ministry has asked MSOs in the 38 cities to make a thorough assessment of the number of STBs required, taking into consideration credible data from the ground level. The MSOs have also been asked to provide information on their plans for procurement of STBs to ensure that the deadline of 31 March is met.

The ministry has also started working on a communication campaign to target the specific needs of 38 cities covered in Phase II. At the review meeting, officials emphasised the need for meticulous planning in the Phase II cities by incorporating lessons learnt from Phase I cities.

The ministry has planned a one-day workshop this month to prepare an integrated plan of action for a smooth and flawless transition to digital cable TV in Phase II cities. It had earlier written to the chief secretaries of the Phase II States to nominate Nodal Officers at the state level as well as in each of the cities targeted in Phase II so that close liaison and coordination could be made to sort out local issues.

There are plans to put in place additional manpower through Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd (BECIL) to make extensive field visits in the targeted 38 cities in Phase II.

The ministry reiterated that the phase II digitisation deadline of 31 March 2013 was sacrosanct and the preparation should be done in right earnest to meet the notified deadline.

The Ministry had issued a notification on 11 November 2011 notifying Phase-wise digitisation of analogue cable television networks in India.

Government claims further increase in STB seeding

The government also claimed that till 5 November 2.24 million digital set top boxes (STBs) have been installed in Mumbai, 2.51 million in Delhi, and 1.77 million in Kolkata. A total of 2.9 million subscribers have DTH connections in the four metro cities.

With the presence of TV signals on analogue cable TV networks in certain pockets of Delhi and Mumbai, the ministry has deployed teams to make extensive field visits to the head-ends to check for violations.

A Ministry official who did not want to be named said the teams had instructions to file police complaints against MSOs or LCOs still transmitting analogue signals.

Consumers complain

While teams of the Ministry have also visited several homes to interact with people and to take a direct feedback about the running of analogue signals, many areas - particularly in the lower strata in east, west and south Delhi - are still receiving analogue signals as people have not bought STBs because of either shortage or the boxes being of poor quality. Some consumers also said they were being asked to pay almost double the rate set by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for the boxes.

A Task Force member who did not want to be named said that the tariff was still unclear.

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