Digitalisation: Trai tariff order likely next week

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is issuing its Tariff Order and other related guidelines relating to digitisation next week, almost three weeks after the deadline of 31 March set by the Government.

With the government sticking to its deadline of switching off analogue in the four metros on 30 June, this may create complications as the multi-system operators and cable operators will have to rework their agreements with the broadcasters on the one hand and with the subscribers on the other.

Cable industry sources indicated that the delay in announcement of tariff appeared to have been dictated by the elections to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi slated for 15 April.

The sources also said that many cable operators had not even begun the ground work for converting their analogue systems to digital addressable systems.

Trai had held a day-long meeting earlier this week with stakeholders – first half devoted to broadcasters, and the latter half to MSOs and cable operators – in which it heard the problems being faced by various sections because of delay in announcement of tariff and the reluctance of the government to permit both systems to co-exist for some time after 1 July till all homes had switched over to DAS.

It is expected that there will be a provision of 45 days for final disposal for applications of licences for DAS for cable operators, thus giving them little time to prepare for the change.

The government has allayed fears of any shortage of digital set top boxes. While a total of ten million STBs are required for the first phase, Delhi needs 3.3 million of which 700,000 had been installed. Another one million are in stock and orders have been placed for 2.8 million.

The STBs, says the government, would cost less than Rs 1000 and could be had on rent for as low as Rs 30 a month.

The must-carry clause for Doordarshan and Parliamentary channels would continue even after digitisation.

After the four metros, the target date for completely digitising cable sector in cities with population of more than one million was 30 March 2013, all urban areas by 30 September 2014, and the whole country by 31 December 2014.

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