Cable TV

CAS rollout must address credible monitoring of SMS: Dasgupta

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The big question mark on the introduction of conditional access systems in India will be how to keep a check on the subscriber management systems (SMS) that are introduced by cable operators, SET India CEO Kunal Dasgupta said at a media briefing in Mumbai.

Though the press conference was to introduce cricketer Kapil Dev as the SET's brand ambassador for the ICC Cricket World Cup, the hot topic was CAS. "Will the law make it mandatory to declare the subscriber base? And how do you control it to prevent manipulation? Dasgupta asks.

Dasgupta said he expected the the rollout of CAS in just the four metros to take at least a year after the expected passage of the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2002 in the next session of Parliament in July.

Dasgupta pointed out that even post-CAS there would certainly be bundling of channels which would be offered as different packages to subscribers. And at the end of the day the channels which formed part of the best bundle of channels would be the ones that would pack in the most subscribers.

A point that Dasgupta made was that the introduction of CAS would hasten the entry of DTH into the country. Queried as to whether that wouldn't in fact kill DTH because the high-end users would have all sorts of add-ons like interactivity offered to them Dasgupta disagreed. He said what was being envisioned now was essentially analog systems. To introduce digital systems was not as easy as was being made out, Dasgupta said. What was needed was not only headend upgradation as well as line upgradation. And if this was to happen across the country where cable had penetrated it would involve a cost of up to Rs 500 billion, Dasgupta said. According to Dasgupta, only Reliance was doing that kind of work at present.

Dasgupta said the success or failure of CAS would depend on how it was implemented. "I am sure the government will ensure that when CAS is introduced, services will not be disrupted," Dasgupta concluded.

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