Digitisation: STB deployment tardy in 3 of the 4 metros

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: The deployment of set-top boxes (STBs) in three metros is dismal, indicating that the sunset date of 31 October for switching off analogue cable in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai under the first phase of digitisation will be a herculean task.

Mumbai looks the most prepared with 50 per cent of cable TV homes already having digital STB installations. But Delhi and Kolkata seem to be struggling with the rate of STB installations around 25 per cent while Chennai is way behind.

Installation of STBs in cable TV homes is the most crucial precondition for digital switchover of cable television. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has, thus, been constantly reviewing the preparedness of the industry for the digital switchover.

A review by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has revealed that in Mumbai city there is an estimated requirement of 3.485 million STBs and so far 1.707 million have been installed.

The MSO-wise installation of STBs in Mumbai is as under:

National level MSOsHathway616,000
Independent MSOs169,000

"If the progress stays so sluggish, how will the government be able to force digitisation by 31 October? Things have to improve or we shall possibly be headed for another deadline extension," a media analyst said.

Another headache for the Ministry is the absence of agreements between the broadcasters and the multi-system operators (MSOs). No deal has been signed so far, making it difficult for the cable operators to sell digitisation to their subscribers. MSOs and independent cable operators will also have to prepare channel packages, making them attractive for consumers to buy.

The completion of negotiation and the signing of interconnection agreements between the channel aggregators/ broadcasters and MSOs is one of the prerequisites for implementation of digital switchover.

The Ministry has been constantly coordinating with the stakeholders of the cable television industry, namely, broadcasters, MSOs and local cable operators (LCOs) to ensure that the deadline of 31 October 2012 is met and TV viewers in the four metro cities are in position to have the pleasure of experiencing digital broadcast without any interruption.

Fortnightly meetings of the Task Force are being held with all the stakeholders to take constant stock of the progress and to chalk out the measures to address emerging concerns.

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