Technology

Govt in favour of 74% FDI for DTH: Raghu menon

NEW DELHI: The Information & Broadcasting Ministry would like to take forward the recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to up foreign direct investment in direct-to-home to 74 per cent but there are processes involved before this can be done, said I&B secretary Raghu Menon.


Menon said DTH had taken television to the remotest corners of the country and so the government would like to encourage the sector.


On another issue, he said Trai had recommended a complete switch-off of analogue by 2013, but that was a complex issue and may not be easy to implement. He said the sunset date will have to be extended.
 
However, he said Prasar Bharati was working on achieving full digitisation by 2017 and was working on the first phase to be completed by 2013 at a cost of Rs 15.62 billion.


Addressing the one-day meet on ‘Addressable India’ organised by the Cable and Satellite Broadcasters Association of Asia (CASBAA), he said digitisation had been given a boost by the DTH and Cas (conditional access system).


The I&B Ministry was also helping Prasar Bharati increase the capacity of channels on DD Direct Plus, the country’s only free-to-air DTH, to 97 in the first phase and finally to 200 by mid-2012.


Referring to the growth of high definition TV and 3G on mobiles making access of TV content easier, he said a three-member committee on use of mobiles for TV had already given its report which was under study.  
 
He said the growth of the broadcasting sector in India had been one of the highlights as even the recession did not stop this growth pattern with leaders thinking out of the box. It was set to emerge as a flag-bearer of India on the global scenario.


He said that reports had indicated a 13 per cent CAGR for television by 2013. It had achieved a target of 8.5 per cent by 2009 and had become a Rs 265 billion strong industry.


The country now had just under 600 TV channels with 65 foreign channels, he said.


The Ministry would facilitate this growth and was therefore liberalising this process. Digitisation had transformed everything, leading to a paradigm shift. The TV screen may soon be a thing of the past with computer screens taking over.


Digitisation had begun with DTH, then Cas, followed by HITS (Headend-In-The-Sky) and IPTV, enabling content providers and giving greater choices to consumers. DTH cannot replace cable but will force that sector to digitise.



Though the Trai tariff order was under challenge in courts, it was expected to improve things when implemented. Tariff and inter-connection issues also have to be worked out for HITS.



But he noted that since HITS was voluntary, the pace of digitisation will be slow unless a timeline is set. However, timelines are not easy to achieve in a vast country like India and migration may be difficult. This may not be possible unless there are affordable set top boxes, greater mobilisation and investments.


Earlier, Trai chairman J S Sarma referring to the National Broadband Plan and the consultation paper submitted by the Authority in this regard yesterday, said TV was a good medium for spreading broadband, and stressed on the need to lay a network of optical fibre and suggested the setting up of a National Optical Fibre Agency (NOFA).


He said TRAI had also recommended setting up a National Broadband Network to help the government achieve its goal of 20 million broadband connections all over the country.


He said in order to go fully digital, the recommendations of Trai dated 5 August 2010 on “Implementation of Digital addressable system in India” will need to be implemented on priority basis.


The Government may review the duties levied on inputs and finished products used in providing broadband and Internet services. Customer premises equipment including modem and routers used for Internet and broadband may be considered for 100 per cent depreciation in the first year, he said.


Introducing the meet, Casbaa India head Anjan Mitra said the DTH sector was steering towards an aggressive acquisition mode with Indian DTH subscribers reaching a record high of 1.7 million in November. Between March and November 2010, the DTH sector had matched its last fiscal customer pile up by acquiring a total of 8.5 million subscribers in just eight months.


Tam Media Research CEO LV Krishnan said that while the analogue industry had grown by 11 million in the last four years, the digital industry through DTH and other means had grown by 29 million. Cable and satellite had seen a growth of 16 per cent last year and 13 per cent this year.


The terrestrial viewing had shrunk from 30 to 26 million homes and it was interesting that DTH had seen a greater growth in the rural areas than in urban areas in the initial years. The rural sector was also moving towards pay TV and while 86 per cent subscribers in urban areas were on pay, the rural area subscribers had doubled to 64 per cent in recent years.


Referring to viewing patterns, he said the choice of channels was clearer among young audiences; there were more points of consumption and even repeat content, and there were higher conversions to digitisation. Digital TV was expected to go up to 38 million homes soon.

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