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DAS Phase III status report: East and West

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MUMBAI: Though the deadline was announced well in advance, the action on-ground took quite some time to get rolling. And now it’s certainly too late to finish on time. “It’s chaos and carnage together. Digitisation, which was meant to be a panacea has turned out to be a poison for cable operators and it’s sad that there is no one to stand by their side,” said a retired official from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) on condition of anonymity.

 

As per the official’s assessment, on an average, 40 per cent seeding of set-top-boxes (STBs) has been done successfully and it will be impossible to meet the 31 December, 2015.

 

Digitisation is an East – West – North – South affair and the progress report is quite similar everywhere. This report by Indiantelevision.com covers the proceedings of the eastern and western parts of the country.

 

East

 

The North Eastern part of the country has always been one of the most neglected areas when it comes to central government’s attention. The story is no different when it comes to DAS too. “People here are not aware of 10 per cent of the laws. There is nobody to go to and talk about grievances. Not everyone can go to the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) as they cannot afford to. So they have two options, to either opt out entirely from the cable business or succumb to unfair means. While there are grievances involved, we cannot expect work to go on a brisk pace and it’s all delayed,” Task Force member from Assam Iquebal Ahmed tells this website.

 

While Ahmed refrained from putting a number to the progress but as per the assessment of other cable operators, approximately 30 per cent of the seeding has been done so far.

 

And this 30 per cent is still on higher side the story is even worse in West Bengal. “Only eight to 10 per cent of the seeding has been done so far,” estimates Siticable Kolkata director Suresh Sethia. But he also says the work has picked up recently and it is not impossible to meet the deadline provided there is a surge in consumer demand.

 

“The government has to advertise more aggressively by putting more newspaper inserts to drive consumer requirement. The message needs to be very clear that people need to have set top boxes before 31 December or there will be no TV,” stresses Sethia.

 

The crisis of STBs, which is very widely spoken about is not something Sethia is bothered about. “As far as we are concerned, we have enough hardware to meet the demand,” he says confidently.

 

West

 

The west side story is a lot better in comparison. “About 60 per cent of the seeding has been done in Gujarat and if we continue with the way we are forging forward, there is a good possibility of us reaching the target by March if not December, provided the deadline is not postponed. However, if the deadline is postponed, the momentum of work will break since the pressure will ease off and then we might not be able to achieve it by June,” says GTPL Hathway COO Shaji Mathews.

 

Mathews is of the opinion that deals with broadcasters cannot be a reason behind the delay. “Even in Phase I and II, analogue deals continued in digitised areas for a brief period. The transition takes time and will gradually fall in place,” he adds.

 

However, the progress report in Maharashtra is not as hunky dory as that of Gujarat. The Maharashtra government, like the Central government, is adamant on no extension of deadline. The respective collectors have also communicated the same across every nook and corner. But there is a huge lack of awareness among consumers, says a senior member of Nasik District Cable Operators Federation.

 

He further adds, “Do we have the infrastructure ready? Why are we not talking about that? The MSOs will benefit the most from this chaotic scenario. They are not releasing the boxes now and the reason is that when the demand hikes up at the last moment, they can jack up the price and sell. DEN is charging Rs 1600 for a STB! Can a phase III consumer afford it? The government needs to look into the deeper issues and generate more awareness instead of showing its muscle power.”

 

What the scenario at the ground level will be post 31 December, 2015, only time will tell.

 

Indiantelevision.com’s next report will focus on the ground realities in the Northern and Southern parts of the country. Stay tuned.

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