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IDOS 2014: MCOF’s vision for DAS phase III and IV

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GOA: Maharashtra Cable Operators Foundation president Arvind Prabhoo has expressed complete dissatisfaction at the extension of the digitisation dates in phase III and phase IV. While the Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar has said that the delay in digitisation is because he is looking at indigenisation of set top boxes (STBs), Prabhoo feels that even before the Indian STB manufacturers come up with their quality boxes, the international vendors will start chipping in boxes, which will be over priced.

According to Prabhoo, the postponement also sends a signal that there is a dichotomy between the regulator and the industry. The MCOF president was expressing his views during the just concluded IDOS 2014 in Goa.   

“The worst impact of this delay will be on the last mile owners (LMOs), who will now face stiff competition from the direct to home (DTH) players because they will now have almost a year or year and a half to start marketing their product,” informs Prabhoo.

The LMO, for Prabhoo is an entrepreneur “and we have been saying this since last year.”

Many LMOs have started realigning themselves at district level as well as state level. “The last mile owner has realised that alignment and realignment will happen and it is good for him. We know that a lot of LMOs, who have a good standing in the community will get funds for fellow LMOs,” opines Prabhoo.

He also highlights that a lot of technology solutions will be provided by LMOs, which will be much cheaper than what is currently available. “And if we adopt technology, I think it will become a great time for LMOs and independent headend operators.”

Prabhoo through IDOS 2014 has also requested the Telecom Regulator Authority of India (TRAI) chairman Rahul Khullar to open up the ISP licences for cable television owners. “It is after this that the broadband and digital India dream can materialise,” he says.  

He opines that while the extension has been given, the challenge can be seen as an opportunity. He is aware of the challenges, considering the different demographics for phase III and IV markets. “There are almost 5000 headend owners; we might have to cut this down to maybe 50 headends. That’s going to lead to unemployment. Also revenue differentiation will be there,” he highlights.

Prabhoo disagrees with the perception that the ARPU is less. “There is going to be a viability concern because of transportation cost. We have requested the TRAI chairman to also allow us to use the national optical fibre system and subsidise rates. If that happens and cost of transportation goes down then these headends could be a viable proposition,” he says.

According to him, players who were earlier in the B2B space and have applied for a DAS licence, when they begin to expand in phase III and IV areas, they won’t have any legacy issues. MCOF claims to have helped the LMO and independent headend owner by tying up with telecom skills department to re-skill employees because digital era is different than their analogue culture. “We are revenue driven and not valuation drive. So, those who want to see actual revenues coming in, should partner with us,” says Prabhoo.

Learning from the mistakes of phase I and II, this time it will emphasise on data services. One of the major issues was about customer ownership and MCOF says that this will keep the ownership with the LMO with a fee based OSS and BSS services such as headend operation, billing etc. “We are looking at reducing a tier in the broadcaster, MSO, LMO, customer tier thus enabling lower MRP and much higher revenue share to the LMOs,” he concludes.

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