STB availability key to Cas success

MUMBAI: Availability of set-top boxes (STBs) is one of the key concerns for the successful roll out of conditional access system, speakers at a workshop on "Cas and Digital CATV" said here today.

Cable operators should not only look at the price of the boxes but also the quality of features it offers as there is revenue to be earned from the consumers. "While what is being pushed now in India is basic boxes, there is need also to go in for middleware that enables enhanced facilities. The important question to be asked is what the boxes can do. Cable operators will be able to, after all, earn revenues from features like video-on-demand and gaming," said Technosat managing director Irshad M Contractor.

The Dubai-based company is prepared to set up a manufacturing facility in India if the demand for STBs pick up. Technosat has boxes ranging from basic to premium features on MPEG-2 and is currently conducting trials on MPEG-4.

Though multi-system operators (MSOs) are currently importing boxes, several manufacturers in India are keen to come up with local production facilities. "We are introducing 4-5 flavours of STBs that are fully developed in India. The boxes will have personal video recorder (PVR) and digital video recorder (DVR). We are integrating the encryption system with Conax. We are also in talks with other Cas technology providers," said Surbhi Broadband general manager sales P C Mishra.

The two-day workshop, which concluded today, was organised by Satellite & Cable TV (SCaT) magazine and attracted over 250 delegates. The focus was on facilitating cable operators to make the transition from analogue to digital cable. The issues covered ranged from digital headends to billing solutions for Cas.

Speaking on digital headends for simulcasting digital video broadcasting - cable (DVB-C), Peter Batt of Teleste said there was need to offer on demand TV and other value-added services. The third generation headends improved footprint and power consumption while offering unicast/multicast video services and triple play. But the fourth generation IP-centric headend for DVB-C and IPTV combined everything and offered "ultimate flexibility."

Earlier SCaT editor and executive director Dinyar Contractor said Headend-In-The-Sky (HITS) would mean rapid digital and Cas roll out as it would reach out to the smallest and far flung last mile operators (LMOs). Even as Cas made it unviable for LMOs to set up a digital Cas headend and offer a large pay bouquet, HITS offered several advantages to them.

"The transmodulator cost is as low as Rs 2000 per channel and the LMOs can assemble their own, local basic tier. It is economically attractive if the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) permits nationwide Cas," he said.

SCaT chairman Sudeep Malhotra spoke on uplink and downlink policies, elaborating on the regulatory framework prescribed for the different genres of channels such as news and sports. "There are 164 Indian channels licensed to be uplinked from India. The channels that are registered and allowed to be downlinked into India amount to a total of 54 channels," he said.

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