Technology

Next 5 years crucial for digitisation in India: Sarma

NEW DELHI: The next five years will be crucial for digitisation in India and the industry needs to unite if the country has to move towards minimum regulation in the broadcasting sector, said Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) chairman JS Sarma.
 
Sarma, who was speaking at the sixth India Digital Networks Summit here today, expressed confidence that the country could achieve total digitisation by December 2013, by when analogue can be stopped, though he said that the final decision will be taken by the government.


He said that there was need to move towards minimum regulation in broadcasting and the industry must unite if this has to be achieved. Similarly, issues such as carriage fee can only be sorted out if the industry is united.









L to R: Wanvari, Sarma, Shankar, Singh, Puri and Goenka at inauguration of IDNS 2010
Sarma  said digitisation will bring in greater transparency and he was confident that the industry will support the pace forward.

He said a plan of action must be worked out, irrespective of whether this was done by the Trai or by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry.


He said Trai had suggested several measures to the government with regard to digitisation which included issues such as taxation and foreign direct investment and the matter was pending with the government.


The way the country moves over the next five years will decide the fate of digitisation in the next fifty years, he said.


Denying that Trai looked at broadcasting from a telecom standpoint, Sarma however, agreed that the issue of a new regulator required deep thought.


He said the country will benefit by around $20 billion a year with digitisation and therefore, it was important that the pace be stepped up. In fact, he said the work on digitisation should have commenced much earlier.


He said that Trai had suggested an FDI of 74 per cent for MSOs and 26 per cent for local cabel operators that wanted to digitise.


He said the increase in broadband would also accelerate digitisation. He said even the cable industry was being used to help increase the spread of broadband.


Since the matter of tariff of addressable systems was before the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), Trai had suggested a ceiling of Rs 250 per month for the non-CAS systems.



Earlier, MPA executive director Vivek Couto in his presentation said 40 per cent of the world would be fully digitised by 2014. He noted that in India out of 110 million TV homes, 24.6 million was covered by direct-to-home (DTH).


But analogue was still the heart of the 60,000 cable operators who controlled the industry.



He said around $3 billion would be needed for digitisation of the cable industry over the next ten years. The returns however were long term. The payback will begin within 48 months, or even less with the spread of broadband, he added.


He said certain things like better licensing regime, higher investment norms, greater deregulation and a new regulator were necessary to achieve this.


Earlier welcoming the delegates, founder and CEO of indiantelevision.com Anil Wanvari said the cable industry was still fragmented and needed to be catalysed. Digitisation had been put on the backburner.


However, the DTH industry was growing faster and had covered 24 per cent of the cable and satellite homes in the country, though it was still not yielding profits.



The smaller cable television operators were getting marginalised. IPTV was growing only in the upscale market.


The government should put a licensing regime in place and the industry has to push the government for this, he said.


The day-long annual India Digital Networks Summit (IDNS) has been jointly organised by indiantelevision.com and Media Partners Asia, based on the theme “Building the digital ecosystem”.


Endorsed by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the summit will debate on India‘s future digital ecosystem. The meet has the participation of a stellar cast of leaders from government, distribution, content, technology and investment communities. Heads of DTH (direct-to-home), cable TV, distribution, and broadcasting industries are part of the summit.
 

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