Regulators

Regional Units set up to implement DAS; broadcasters ask MSOs for analogue rates till Dec

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NEW DELHI: Twelve Regional Units (RUs) are being set up for implementation of Digital Addressable System (DAS) in Phase Ill areas.

At the ninth meeting of the DAS Task Force earlier this month, Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry joint secretary (broadcasting) R Jaya said these RUs will hold workshops on digitisation where all issues shall be discussed with the District Nodal officers nominated by State Governments.

The remark came when a representative of local cable operators (LCO) from Assam said multi-system operators (MSO) are stopping signals to LCOs without any reason and the local authorised officers do not take cognisance of any violation of the provisions of the Cable TV Act. He added that there is no redressal mechanism for violations of Cable Act at State level and the cable operators do not have the means to file cases in Telecom Disputes Settlement and Arbitration Tribunal (TDSAT).

Additional secretary J S Mathur, who chaired the meeting on 7 July, said time was fast running out and impressed on all stakeholders to ensure progress and timely completion of digitisation by the cutoff date.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (TRAI) GS Kesarwani was given the task to ask broadcasters to get details of MSOs who were intending to wait till September 2015 before sending requests to broadcasters for agreements in Phase III areas.

On the other hand, Mathur said that the endeavour on the MSOs' part should be to start using indigenously manufactured set-top-boxes (STBs) in their network.

Kesarwani informed of a review meeting that was held by TRAI on the progress of signing inter-connect agreements for Phase Ill areas with broadcasters and MSOs. He said that three broadcasters namely Star India, Multi Screen Media (MSM) and TV18 - informed TRAI that they had received 55 requests from MSOs so far out of which they have signed commercial deals with two MSOs, whereas deals with 11 MSOs were in advance stages of negotiation.

Kesarwani also urged MSOs who had not received any response to their requests from broadcasters, to inform TRAI.

Saying that the Headend-in-the-Sky (HITS) operations were also covered under DAS regulations, Kesarwani asked HITS operators to apprise TRAI if no response was received from broadcasters to their requests for interconnect agreements.

Apprehending that there may be some gap areas or MSO deficient areas, Jaya asked Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) representatives to get details of these areas from broadcasters and intimate the same to the Ministry.

Meanwhile even as they admitted some progress, representatives of national MSOs said  that broadcasters were asking for seeding plans and other data. However, MSOs were not in a position to provide this at this stage. They said channel pricing in Phase III areas was the main hurdle in signing of interconnect agreements. Some of them said that a few broadcasters had proposed agreements on analogue rates till December 2015 and others on reference inter-connect order rates.

Even according to the TRAI, pricing can be different for different markets, they said.

A representative of Siticable Networks said, "According to an analysis of urban areas carried out by us, it may not be feasible for any operator to carry out digitisation in urban areas having only a few hundred TV households. Even broadcasters are insisting on analogue agreements at present."

According to an IBF representative, broadcasters had entered into agreements with five regional MSOs. He said, "Broadcasters have filed an appeal in the Supreme Court challenging the TDSAT judgment on the tariff orders issued by TRAI."

On the issue of STBs, a representative of Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association (CEAMA ) said that no major orders were received by the industry so far from MSOs. On the other hand, while Siticable and Hathway officials said they were in talks with indigenous STB manufacturers, officials of direct-to-home (DTH) companies said that they had procured about three million STBs from Videocon.

The meeting was attended by around 35 persons including some senior Ministry officials and some representatives from state governments.

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