WWIL in drive to acquire LMOs

MUMBAI: Wire & Wireless India Ltd (WWIL), the cable outfit of Zee Network, is on a drive to acquire last mile operators. The company is offering to cable operators a valuation of Rs 2,000-3,000 per subscriber. While WWIL will be a 51 per cent partner, the balance 49 per cent will be with the operators.

"We want to expand the size of our network. We are making proposals to operators with decent size where we become partners with 51 per cent," says WWIL CEO Jagjit Kohli.

WWIL has acquired control over 5 Star which operates in Andheri, a western suburb of Mumbai, adds Kolhi. "We have also poached a few operators from Incablenet in Andheri East and others from multi-system operators (MSOs) are going to join us."

WWIL, which doesn't have a presence in South Mumbai, is also targeting operators in that area. The MSO has linked up optic fibre and is keen to start operations in this lucrative part of the Mumbai market. The government has notified south Mumbai as the area where CAS (conditional access system) will kick off on 1 January.

WWIL is also planning to launch a headend-in-the-sky (HitS) platform and has expressed its intent to broadcasters. "We are going to do HITS. This will provide us a wider footprint and hasten the pace for digitisation in the country," says Kohli.

The buzz in the market is that WWIL is booking seven transponders on Thaicom 5 for the HITS operations. When queried on this, Kohli declined to comment.

The problem with HITS, however, is that broadcasters are reluctant to get into agreement with MSOs for providing their channels due to fear of piracy.

Even as WWIL sweetens its proposals to rope in last mile operators, it remains to be seen how big the impact will be in the cable TV industry. If migration from rival networks take place, it will set the pace for a fresh bout of price and dirty wars on the ground. As Hathway Cable & Datacom managing director and CEO K Jayaraman had told Indiantelevision.com earlier in an interview: "As far as poaching of operators go, it is an open ground. Cable companies who focus on good service and have capital to create capacity will turn out winners. Competition is not a one-way street."

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