MUMBAI: Efforts have been on to spur Indian companies to manufacture cable TV set top boxes (STB) domestically - the government has been encouraging and nudging the private sector to do so. The Mumbai-based ABS Seven Star group - which runs a health channel and a cable TV network in Mumbai - seems to have taken the bait. It has set up a new company called ABS Productions Pvt Ltd which has designed standard definition (SD), high definition (HD) and hybrid STBS - both MPEG2 and MPEG4 - and contracted Videocon group company Trend Electronics to manufacture them at its Aurangabad plant.
“Trend Electronics also makes STBs for Videocond2h and it has very good experience doing so. Hence we have struck up a manufacturing alliance with it," says ABS Seven Star CMD Atul Saraf.
Saraf has hired a 20 member team for the STB manufacturing initiative - 14 of these are working on the software while the rest will be looking after the hardware. While the manufacturing unit has a 30,000 STBs per day capacity, its first order will roll out of the assembly lines by 15 May. “The first order is for our cable TV network ABS Seven Star, which is close to 50,000 boxes,” he says.
Saraf points out that close to $1 million has been pumped into R&D while designing the STBs locally.
Saraf is a firm believer of indigenous manufacturing of STBs. “When the government mandated implementation of digitisation, it was since then, that I was against importing boxes from abroad. These plain vanilla Chinese boxes are of poor quality and need to be replaced every couple of years. Also, a big disadvantage is that there are no service centers,” he says.
He reveals that local manufacturing will ensure better service standards apart from generating employment. “Phase III and IV markets will need approximately 100 million STBs.I hope to capture about 5 per cent of this by next year” he says.
Based on the Broadcom chipset - ensuring better video quality - the higher end boxes will have a recording facility as well, apart from being able to deliver internet. The Hybrid STB will also deliver a video on demand service. “We are not tying up with any OTT platform for this, but will create our own platform to facilitate the VOD service,” says he.
In order to ensure better service, 200 Videocon d2h service centers, across India, have been roped in to bandage and spruce up the STBs should they face any problems in close proximity to their installation.
ABS Productions has priced the MPEG2 SD box at Rs 1200-1300, the MPEG4 SD box at Rs 1400-1600, the MPEG4 HD box at Rs 2,300-2,400 while Hybrid Box is priced at Rs 3,500-3,800.