Cable TV

DAS: Even official figures show cable TV digitisation is incomplete

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NEW DELHI: Almost two weeks after the formal switch-off of analogue in all parts of the country except Tamil Nadu, a majority of multi-system (MSOs) and local cable operators (LCOs) claimed that the seeding of set-top boxes in Phase III is just over 40 per cent, and likely to be less in Phase IV areas where people cannot afford the boxes.

In sharp contrast, the minister of state for information and broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore told the Parliament in mid-March that around 67 per cent seeding of set-top boxes had been achieved in Phase III and IV combined, while it was absolute in the first two phases (minus Tamil Nadu).

All India Digital Cable Federation Secretary General Saharsh Damani told indiantelevision.com that reports of Phase III received from MSOs indicated that around 43 million STBs had been seeded even as the government had said that the total affected population in Phase III was just over 33 million.

Furthermore, he said many MSOs said they had ample boxes lying with them, and so were stopping import of more boxes.

With no clear picture emerging yet even as the country formally completes full digitisation of cable television, an information and broadcasting ministry official claimed told indiantelevision.com that the figure had already crossed 75 per cent in the final two phases. However, he admitted that some extensions had been allowed in some areas, and analogue was continuing in these areas though time limits had been set.

Meanwhile an MSO who did not want to be named said people in rural areas could not afford boxes and monthly payments, and so they may opt for direct-to-home TV. Adding that MSOs were not doing 'charity' but involved in business, he said the chances were that they would take Doordarshan’s FreeDish as a cheaper option.

Maharashtra Cable Operators Federation office-bearer Arvind Prabhoo told indiantelevision.com that the estimates received by him from Phase IV areas in his state showed just over 20 per cent cable TV homes had gone digital. He also said that, while the situation in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana with regard to Phase IV was very bad, his understanding was that these two states had achieved 60 per cent seeding of which most was in Phase III. Both states have already sought extensions from the centre.

He added that, though he had no figures, the position in Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh was very bad – particularly in Phase IV.

Interestingly, forseeing the DD FreeDish challenge, some DTH platforms have assured subscribers that, at a minimum sum fixed by them, it will be ensured that there is no stoppage of signals to them since DTH is in any case digital.

About plans to help the poor acquire STBs, the ministry official said the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had already announced schemes of payments in installments.

Meanwhile a meeting of the Task Force for the final two phases held two weeks before total switch-off was told by the advisor (DAS) Yogendra Pal that registered operators in Phase III and Phase-IV areas had reported 64.4 million STBs, excluding Tamil Nadu, which came to 67% of the total requirement.

While giving region-wise figures, he said that there was need to sit together and chalk out a plan for successful implementation of Cable TV digitisation across the country.

It was decided that a meeting would be held in the office of the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and an action plan would be worked out in the presence of representatives of MSOs.

Additional secretary Jayashree Mukherjee asked the members to outline the problems being faced by them in Phase IV areas and also their preparedness.

A representative from SITI Cable stated that they have been facing some problems with regard to carrying of signals as the telecom bandwidth available in remote areas of Phase-IV is poorly served and can only be utilized by one or two MSOs and quality of service is affected. He again raised the issue of infrastructure sharing and wanted to know progress made in this regard.

The ministry wanted to know if the MSOs had any proposal, noting that no such proposal had been received so far.

A representative from GTPL Hathway stated they have no problem in Implementing digitization in Phase-IV areas. He further stated that some push-up from the State Government is also required.

Mukherjee asked the DTH representative what initiatives have been taken by them to cover those areas where cable connectivity is not available. The representative stated that they are in the process of addressing the problems commercially as well.

Representatives of national MSOs raised the issue of continuance of analogue signals in some areas, particularly in Telangana State and suggested that all broadcasters are required to undergo for total discontinuation of analogue signals.

The IBF asked the MSOs for specific complaints in this regard so that immediate necessary action can be taken. He mentioned IBF has already issued Circulars/Notices to all their members to switch off analog signals in Phase III areas.

The representatives from the State Governments outlined their readiness and action being taken by them with regard to successful implement of Digitization. They mentioned that they are holding meetings with stakeholders.

All the stakeholders also said they have enough inventories of STBs to be seeded in Phase IV areas. No major issue is pending with regard to Cable TV Digitisation in Phase IV areas to be addressed.

Also Read :

DAS: MSOs, LCOs give low figure of STB seeding, official sources admit it's under 80%

Final phase STB seeding is 35% even as deadline nears

DAS deadline extension ruled out, govt claims 66% seeding done

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