Trai revises deadline for digital TV signals to June 2014

NEW DELHI: Although it has revised its suggested sunset date for digitisation, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has refused to accept the government’s view to put the D-Day on 31 March 2015 and instead opted for June 2014 for all cable operators to move to digital television signals.

In its response to the Government’s suggestions to Trai’s earlier report, the regulator has suggested the four metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai should shift to digital cable by December 31 this year. For cities which have a population of over one million, it has suggested December 2012 as the timeline.
The Information and Broadcasting Ministry had raised concerns over lack of availability of large numbers of set-top-boxes that are required to receive digital cable signals and proposed a longer period to allow cable operators to shift to the new system.

However in a letter to the Ministry, Trai chairman J S Sarma said the indigenous set-top-box makers can schedule their production plans as per the digitalisation time plan. The I&B ministry had raised concerns over lack of availability of large numbers of set-top-boxes that are required to receive digital cable signals and proposed a longer period to allow cable operators to shift to the new system. 
He also said that the set-top-boxes can be imported to meet the requirement and the global production capacity of the equipment is much more than what is needed for a national rollout of digitalisation.

But Trai has said that as some time has elapsed since the report submitted by it in August last year, it had agreed to certain changes in timelines.

Thus cities with more than a million population will be digitised by 31 December 2012 instead of March 2013, as proposed by the Ministry, all urban areas by 31 December 2013 instead of by March 2014, and the rest of the country by 31 December 2013.

The broadcast sector regulator said it should be possible to complete Phase III and Phase IV by 31 December 2013, but as some lead time would be inevitable for Phase four, the date can be stretched to 30 June 2014.

It has also suggested the setting up of a Task Force in the Ministry to oversee the process of digitisation. This Task Force would have representation from all stakeholders.

Earlier, I&B Secretary Raghu Menon had written to Sarma on 28 January asking it to review its recommendations in the light of the Ministry’s concerns.

Trai said it had accorded due consideration to each concern expressed by the government and sought to answer it.

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