I&B Ministry explains to PMO its reasons for postponing digitisation dates

NEW DELHI: The Information and Broadcasting Ministry feels that digitisation is a tool to empower the people and not create difficulties, and therefore does not agree that it will create any setback to the Digital India Plan.

Ministry sources told that this had been conveyed by the Ministry to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in response to the communication to PMO by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chairman Rahul Khullar.

The sources also pointed out that the pace of digitisation had slowed down over the past year due to lack of adequate publicity and paucity of fund allocation. 

The Ministry said cable TV digitisation was only a small though major part of Digital India.

The main purpose was not to delay digitisation of cable television networks but to encourage greater indigenisation of both set top boxes and other equipment, the sources informed.

The dates proposed by the Ministry were only the outer limit and every effort would be made to ensure digitisation of cable TV is achieved before that. It was also pointed out that the consumer?s capacity to pay was of great importance in the last two phases which were reaching out to semi-urban or rural areas.

It was also emphasised that TRAI was being consulted on the proposal about the new dates and the views of the regulator would be taken into account.

Khullar in his note to the PMO has said staggering implementation of the cable TV digitisation plan will be a major setback to the Digital India plan.

He said, ?For the last six months, we have been working on phase-III and phase-IV. If implementation is now staggered, it will be a body blow to the project, primarily because momentum will be lost and it is truly very difficult to enforce compliance countrywide.?

Under the current plan, the third phase of the cable TV digitisation plan is expected to end on 30 September, and phase IV by 31 December this year, while the Ministry feels the new dates should be December 2015 and December 2016 respectively.

?Should this happen, it will be a major setback to digitisation in the country. Further, a huge effort was made by TRAI to enforce compliance. We encountered significant difficulties in ensuring that phase I and phase II were effectively completed,? the TRAI chief wrote.

There are 100 million homes with cable TV connection of which 20 million are digital. In addition, there are 56 million DTH homes. This is more than the fixed line telephony subscriber base. Digitisation would enable cable TV networks to be used for two-way communications, a pre-requisite for internet services.

TRAI said that digitisation offers much cheaper means of providing broadband to consumers compared to the National Optical Fibre Network project, which aims to roll out fibre cables across the country as broadband is the main supplier of TV signals in all developed countries. 

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