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Cable guy weathers the storm

As Ganpat Gaikwad stands in front of the slums in Kalyan, a town on the outskirts of Mumbai, he shakes his head in disbelief at the damage caused by the worst-ever rainfall the belt witnessed in a century.

A devastated Kalyan

"Almost 70 per cent of my network is damaged. The repair work will be over Rs 1.5 million. This is the worst situation I have ever faced," he says, recollecting the 10 years since he has been running his cable network, Tisai Satellite Service, as an independent operator.

That has not stopped Gaikwad to fight against all odds to get his cable TV service up and running within three days in an area that was struggling to get its basic necessities like electricity and telephone connections in place. "We have managed to restore 80 per cent of our network," he says.

Gaikwad will leave untouched the slums where his cable network used to run but now stands completely ruined. "It is no use investing in these areas now as people have lost almost everything here, including their television sets. We will do the work later," he says.

Gaikwad is just one example of how the cable TV operators withstood the fury of the rains to quickly restore services so that consumers could get the latest news on the telly. Even as Mumbai was reduced to a standstill, cable TV largely remained uninterrupted.

Says Hathway Cable & Datacom chief executive officer K Jayaraman, "We could offer cable TV to 99 per cent of the areas where we operate. In case of broadband Internet, we covered 90 per cent of the belt. Our technicians were very supportive and I was monitoring from office for two continuous days. We coped up with the situation."

Hathway‘s services were, however, disrupted for a day in Mira Road and Kandivili, located in the western suburbs of Mumbai. Water gushed into the headends, affecting the equipment, and cable TV could be restored only the next day.

There was no such issue by and large in the central and eastern suburbs of Mumbai serviced by Hathway Bhawani Cabletel & Datacom. The control room is on the third floor and there was enough fuel to put the generator on as power supply failed in the area.

The Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) township in Navi Mumbai also received cable TV services. "We have a full power pass system. We had a stock of diesel. We could offer our services without any major problem," says Hathway Bhawani director Kulbhushan Puri.

As for Hathway‘s services in South Mumbai, where the city‘s powerbrokers reside, there were of course no major complaints. The south was after all spared the fury of Mumbai‘s Great Deluge.

Incablenet also had no major disruptions except in a few pockets. The Hinduja-promoted multi system operator (MSO) has a centralised headend, giving it a distinct advantage. "We were not affected as we have one headend supplying to the local operators," says Incablenet president Manoj Motwani.

Seven Star, which offers services in the western suburbs of Mumbai like Andheri, also withstood the havoc played by the rain. The control room was protected and there was no major breakdown. "Our people were working, trying to repair minor damages. It was an unusual time and people wanted to watch news channels. Besides, most of them were at home after the first heavy downpour last Tuesday. Our workers even slept in our offices. But wherever there was an electricity problem, we couldn‘t help," says Seven Star director Atul Saraf.

Siticable‘s headend in Ghatkopar, a north-eastern suburb in Mumbai, was badly damaged. The other two control rooms at Dharavi and Mulund, however, were protected.

Admits Ravi Singh, a joint venture partner in Siticable who operates from Ghatkopar: "Water went into the control room as it is in the ground floor. We couldn‘t offer service for two days. The 3-km fibre connecting Nahar to Hiranandani in Powai was also damaged. Now it is being serviced from the second route through Vikhroli. We have to replace that with new fibre."

The three transmitters in Kurla (north-eastern suburb) have also gone, adds Singh. "We have not been able to fully restore the signals in the Kurla-Kalina belt. It will take us another couple of days. The total damage is above Rs 500,000."

The other MSOs are assessing the damage their equipment has suffered. Says Jayaraman, "Amplifiers and headend equipments have suffered damage." Adds Incablenet chief operating officer Srinivas Palakodeti: "There has been damage. We are currently evaluating the losses."


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