Cable TV

MSOs meet; decide to start gross billing in Mumbai soon

MUMBAI: The national multi-system operators (MSOs) don’t want any more delay in starting the gross billing in the phase I cities. While gross billing has already begun in Delhi and Kolkata, the MSOs who have been facing resistance from the last mile operators (LMOs) in Maharashtra, met today in Mumbai to decide on the means to implement billing in the city.

The four MSOs: Hathway Cable & Datacom, DEN Networks, IMCL and SitiCable have unanimously decided to authorise the LMOs to bill their consumers. “The LMO wants ownership of their consumers, and we have decided to give them that,” informs a MSO present during the meeting.

The MSOs during the meeting decided that they will generate the bill and hand it over to the LMOs, who can further give it to the subscribers. “We will start the process in the next couple of days. Consumers will receive the bill for the month of December,” he adds.

While the decision on who collects the entertainment tax is still pending with the Bombay High Court, the MSOs have decided to go ahead and complete the process of gross billing in Mumbai and submit the compliance report to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the deadline for which was 31 December. “We will submit the compliance report, once the billing process starts,” says the MSO.

But what happens if the consumer pays the bill through a cheque? “Well! It is up to the subscriber, they can either sign the cheque in the name of the MSO or the LMO. But considering that the entertainment tax needs to be paid by the LMOs, it will be preferable that the subscriber signs it in the name of the LMO. The LMO will pay us the collection after deducting his revenue share,” he informs.

The decision has been taking to brings everything on track. “The decision on entertainment tax will come sooner or later. But, that cannot deter us from getting the process rolling,” says the operator.

At the meeting, the revenue share for the pay and free channels was also discussed. “These are commercial discussions. We have almost reached on an agreement for that as well. And our plan of revenue share is better than the one suggested by the TRAI,” says the MSO.

But, are the LMOs completely convinced as well? “We will be meeting Hathway and IMCL on 4 January to discuss the fine points. Our concern is that the ownership of consumer should be with the LMOs. We will discuss with them the billing format and also get clarity on whose name the bill is being generated. The heading of the bill should have the name of the LMO and not the MSO. We will not allow that,” says Maharashtra Cable Operators Federation (MCOF) president Arvind Prabhoo.

However, the MSOs have suggested that the bills generated from the MSO will have the name of the LMO, while that generated from the LMO to the subscriber will have the name of the subscriber. “This is a welcome move. But, we still need to discuss the finer points tomorrow,” adds Prabhoo.

In the meeting to be held between MCOF and the MSOs on Saturday, finer points like additional cost of bill printing, distribution and collection will also be discussed. “These are additional liabilities of DAS in the absence of the interconnect agreement and also unfair revenue share and hence need to be discussed,” concludes Prabhoo.

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