Trai moots 2010 as deadline for digitalisation of cable TV

MUMBAI: Conditional access system (CAS) may not have taken off but the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) now moots setting a deadline for digitalisation of cable TV.

In a consultation paper released today, Trai has suggested digitalisation of cable TV should be complete between 2006-2010 under a proposed national plan. This period will coincide with the 2010 Commonwealth Games to be held in Delhi.

The merits of moving from analogue to digital are obvious: More space to carry more channels, improved signal delivery and interactive offerings like video-on-demand (VoD). Digitalisation can be done with or without CAS.

But, as Trai admits, digitalisation involves high initial cost. The delivery system has to be upgraded and equipment would also have to be installed at the consumer premises. Only a few cable operators are offering the digital service. What this means is that simultaneous transmission in analogue and digital mode would have to continue for several years to come.

The Consultation paper discusses various issues related to the cable industry in India, including licensing and choice of technology and associated cost. It also puts forth the possible incentives to promote digitalisation including pricing and fiscal incentives in the form of import duty, entertainment tax and service tax. The need to improve affordability and provide more choice to consumers of black and white television sets which constitutes about 25 per cent of the annual production of TV sets has also been posed for discussion.

The Consultation Paper seeks to elicit views of all stakeholders on various issues connected with this subject. TRAI proposes to hold open house discussions on the subject in February 2005.

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