MUMBAI: When the entire process of digitisation started in the country, nobody would have thought it would be such a tough nut to crack and there would be a slippage of so many deadlines. Recently, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) warned the multi-system operators (MSOs) and subscribers in the digital addressable system (DAS) Phase I and II towns that enough was enough and that they had better get going on finishing the task of submitting the Customer Application Forms (CAFs) with two deadlines - on 27 January for 23 cities and on 31 January for eight cities - once again proving elusive.
The caning seems to have worked well as everything is getting back on track now. A TRAI official informs that the work in the Phase I and II of Digital Addressable System (DAS) is near completion. Cities with 27 January as the deadline - Rajkot, Surat, Vadodara, Faridabad, Mysore, Aurangabad, Nasik, Pimpri-Chinchwad, Pune, Sholapur, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Agra, Allahabad, Ghaziabad, Kanpur, Lucknow, Meerut, Varanasi, Chandigarh and Howrah - have almost been 100 per cent penetrated with active set top boxes (STBs). Almost 85 per cent work has been done (as of 29 January) in areas with 31 January as the deadline that includes cities such as Patna, Ahmedabad, Ranchi, Bengaluru, Kalyan-Dombivali, Nagpur, Navi Mumbai and Thane.
MSOs have been given two to three additional days post the deadline to submit their compliance reports to TRAI.
"We are in touch with the MSOs on a daily basis and nearly 99.7 per cent has been completed as per the deadlines. If subscribers have failed to fill the forms, MSOs have cut off connections, saving TRAI's time and also saving themselves from any action against them," informs a TRAI official.
However, Maharashtra Cable Operators Federation (MCOF) president Arvind Prabhoo says that only 70 to 75 per cent work has been completed in the second deadline areas, while in Navi Mumbai hardly 30- 40 per cent work is done.
A cable operator from Airoli says, "We had got CAF forms in the beginning till about June last year. After that it stopped coming to us."
But Siti Cable COO Anil Malhotra says that almost 90 per cent work has been completed and the subscribers who fail to fill the forms by tonight will have to face a TV blackout. "Scrolls have already been running to make them aware about it and thus we are sure that we will reach 100 per cent compliance soon," he remarks.
Hathway Cable and Datacom CEO Jagdish Kumar claims that in these areas Hathway has reached near about 100 per cent. "By 27 December, almost 90 per cent work was done, while the rest had to face a disconnection. Few customers came back to fill the forms and others switched to DTH," he says. In the next eight cities, about 80 per cent of forms have been collected and fed into the system.
Another leading MSO, Den Networks is also claiming to have achieved 100 per cent compliance for the two dates. Says Den Networks CEO S N Sharma, "In these cities we have complied fully and sent the report to TRAI. We have data of all subscribers and for those who haven't sent them, their cable connections have been cut off."
A bright day for digitisation doesn't look far if the above numbers are to be believed. While few exceptions are always there, most of the stakeholders are taking it seriously. And if the MSOs continue at the same pace and work towards achieving the goal diligently, by February, the work for phase III and IV will kick off.