Regulators

MIB claims 90.44% DAS success; MSOs tell Task Force no shortage of STBs

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NEW DELHI: The first meeting of the Task Force held after implementation of Phase III of Digital Addressable System (DAS) covering all urban areas was informed that the percentage achievement had increased from 76.45 per cent as on 30 December.2015 to 90.44 per cent as on 15 February. 2016.

It was also claimed that the seeding of set top boxes (STBs) by multi system operators (MSOs) increased from 6.91 mIIIion to 12.43 mIIIion for the same period.

An Indian Conditional Access System (iCAS) developed by Department of Electronics and Information Technology wIII be initially available to indigenous STB manufacturers for three years at a nominal fee of $0.5 per STB. Twelve MSOs are reported to have deployed it in their headends.

Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) had been asked by the Department of Telecom to provide required connectivity links to MSOs for taking TV signals in Phase III and Phase IV areas. This follows complaints in the last meeting held at the end of December by MSOs about the problems of connectivity links in some Phase III areas.

Addressing the 14th meeting of the Task Force on implementation of Phases III & IV of DAS in cable TV networks on 16 February, Information and Broadcasting Ministry Special Secretary J S Mathur claimed that the progress achieved was very good in spite of several court cases filed in various courts for extension of the cut-off date.

Mathur remarked that from the stay granted in some court cases it should not be construed that the digitisation would be put on hold. He emphasised that digitisation is a reality now and cannot be stopped. He said broadcasters and MSOs should spread this message. He said according to a report, the number of MSO dark areas have decreased considerably. He said there was need to find out whether the MSOs who have been granted registration recently have placed orders for STBs.

Joint Secretary (Broadcasting) R Jaya in an overview of progress of DAS Phase III & IV said a total of 19 cases had been filed in various courts in the country for extension of cut-off date for Phase III. The Ministry was contesting all cases for immediate vacation of stay granted in these cases. The Ministry had filed a petition in the Supreme Court for transfer of these cases for immediate hearing in the Apex court.

She said 695 MSOs had been granted DAS registration and 164 applications were under process while 240 applications have been received with incomplete information.

She said the Regional Units (RUs) set up for implementing digitisation in Phases III & IV were fully functional. All RUs are in regular correspondence with MSOs in their regions.

She claimed that about 300 to 500 calls were received daily on the toll free help line for cable TV digitisation for Phases III & IV.

Jaya also said that 340 MSOs headends for Phase III & IV have been inspected by Prasar Bharati so far and 109 MSOs head ends of these have been reported to be non-operational.

The Ministry had requested State Governments to furnish a list of Phase IV areas in their states. Except from Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir (which has furnished list of one division only), lists are awaited from other States.

A representative of J&K Government said some areas in Phase III in the State have still not been covered due to non-availability of STBs with MSOs. It was not known whether and when these MSOs have placed orders for STBs.

A representative of the Telengana Government said only 30 to 35 per cent Phase III areas had been covered in the State so far and MSOs may require some time to complete their targets.

Several representatives of MSOs claimed they had sufficient boxes but referred to other problems. The Hathway representative said local cable operators were resisting taking STBs from them for installation due to extension granted by various courts. Another representative of an MSO, the Indusind Media, said in view of the extension granted by courts and analogue transmission still running in some Phase III areas, the broadcasters should charge them on analogue rates according to earlier agreements. The Siticable representative also claimed the problem of stocking the boxes. He added that the MSO had about one million STBs in stock. He remarked that MSOs were required to plan the procurement of STBs in advance which the newly registered MSOs appear to have not done. A representative of GTPL Hathway said some orders of STBs were in transit but it had sufficient stocks.

An Andhra Pradesh Government representative said there had been no complaint of non-availability of STBs in the State. But the representative of Uttarakhand said there have been reports of STB non-¬availability in some areas. He added that they are holding district level meetings to implement digitisation in the State.

During discussions it emerged that some MSOs who have not even applied for registration had filed cases for extension in courts. Cases had also been filed by some MSOs who are not technically ready.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) representative said in one court case, local cable operators had been directed by the court to send requests for STBs to MSOs. He suggested that State Governments should seek data from MSOs regarding availability of STBs. He informed that TRAI has recently written to the Chief Secretaries of State / Governments on the benefits accruable from digitisation to State Governments.

A representative of LCOs from Maharashtra said some DAS Phase IV areas, which had been getting feed from control room in Phase III areas were switched off by MSOs. He added that digitisation is not looking at the consumer and whether he can afford to buy a set top box - particularly in Phase IV areas. 

Mathur said the entire digitisation is in the interest of consumers and it has to take place as per the timelines. He advised that the stakeholders should encourage people to go for digital.

A point was made that MSOs should be given freedom to fix the rates of STBs. A representative of TRAI mentioned that TRAI has not fixed any price for STBs and emphasised that the conditions given in tariff orders issued by TRAI on supply and installation of STBs by MSOs to consumers have to be complied and there can be no compromise on the rights of the consumers.

A representative of CEAMA claimed that the number of companies manufacturing STBs had doubled in last one year; STB production has increased 100  per cent in last one year; one Chinese company is likely to start manufacturing STBs in India; and STB orders are being received from small MSOs. MSOs should place orders in time keeping into view that about two months time is required for integration of CAS in STBs. CEAMA is a member of iCAS.

Jaya said CEAMA should reach out to MSOs to inform them about iCAS and STBs manufactured by them. The CEAMA representative said it would very soon have a meeting on iCAS in which it will also invite DeitY, iCAS developer and MSOs. Mathur said indigenous manufacturing of STBs should be a priority keeping in view the Make in India programme of the Government.

The Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) representative, who referred to its appeal in the Supreme Court, said broadcasters are running scrolls on channels that Ministry has not extended deadline for phase III.

Mathur said the Ministry has requested State Governments to furnish list of Phase IV areas in the State so that progress of digitisation in these areas is monitored. It was mentioned that the information is available with State Governments at various levels viz. hamlets, panchayats and blocks. It was decided that the information at block level would suffice.

Jaya impressed on stakeholders to start publicity campaigns for Phase IV areas to gain the momentum of digitisation in these areas. It was also noted that though Phase IV covers the entire country, a list of areas was required for knowing the progress of seeding as well as MSO dark areas.

Mathur asked MSOs and broadcasters to commence work without waiting for the cut-off date for Phase IV. He said those who are yet to apply for MSO registration should apply now keeping into view that about four months are required for processing of applications. He asked the members to inform the MSOs to apply for DAS registration immediately. He added that an advertisement in newspapers is also being issued for registration of MSOs for phase IV areas. In addition, MSOs must also prepare themselves on the STB front. He also stressed upon the issue of MSOs continuing with their seeding activity as the Ministry has already moved the courts; for transfer of all petitions in State High Courts, for vacation of stays granted. It was imperative that the remaining areas of phase III be covered early.

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