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Cable operators contest Govt claim of 55% digitisation

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Cable operators contest Govt claim of 55% digitisation

Are the 38 cities that are covered in DAS Phase II marching smoothly towards digitisation or not? If Government figures are to be believed, as per a recent review by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), over 55 per cent of the digitisation target has been achieved in these 38 cities, which seem all set to meet the March 31, 2013 deadline.

The Ministry has been constantly monitoring the preparedness for the implementation of digital addressable cable TV system in 38 cities of DAS Phase II. As per the data received from the DTH operators and the MSOs, as on February 22, 2013, a total of 87.7 lakh set top boxes (STBs) have already been installed in Phase II cities, as against the target of 1.60 crore, registering an achievement of 55 per cent digitisation. Out of a total of 87.7 lakh STBs, DTH connections accounted for 40.7 lakh, whereas cable STBs accounted for 47.0 lakh.

The Ministry has set up a task force exclusively for Phase II cities to oversee and monitor the digitisation process. A public awareness committee has also been constituted in the Ministry for spearheading awareness campaign in Phase II. As part of the awareness initiative, all television channels have started to run a scroll, informing consumers about the deadline for cable TV digitisation. All India Radio has also started broadcasting radio jingles on its national and regional networks for creating public awareness. Several other initiatives such as SMS campaign, video spots and print advertisements are on the anvil.

The State Governments/ UTs have already nominated nodal officers in the 38 cities. MIB had recently conducted a workshop for them. A second workshop will be conducted soon to take stock of the preparedness in Phase II cities. A regional workshop was also held recently at Bangalore to sensitise local MSOs, cable operators and other stakeholders.

Meanwhile, there are mixed reactions from the multi system operators to the digitisation figures released by the Government.

According to a source from Digicable, who did not wished to be named, the data presented by the Government also includes DTH figures. The source said that when one looks at the real figures, only 30-35 per cent of the STB installation has been done so far in Phase II. “The main issue is not how much penetration has been done, but how the remaining installation will be completed with just 25 days left for the deadline,” the source maintained.

On the other hand, Rohinton Dadyburjor, Director, GTPL agreed with the government figure and said, “It has been provided to the Government by the MSOs and DTH players themselves”. He added, “However, I can’t comment on whether the deadline will be met or not.”

Cable operators in various cities such as Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Allahabad, Pune and Bhopal have different figures to share regarding the digitisation process. According to them only 20 per cent digitisation has been achieved so far. They are expecting the March 31 deadline to be extended.

Suresh Sethia, Director, Siti Cable, Kolkata shared, “We have achieved only 20 per cent digitisation in Patna so far.”

It may be recalled that the MIB had set up a control room during Phase I, which has continued to address the queries of consumers, cable operators and others. The control room has been receiving calls from consumers in Phase II cities as well.

In order to facilitate cable TV digitisation in 38 cities of Phase II, the Ministry has already issued provisional registration to 30 independent MSOs to operate in these cities. This will enable these MSOs to operate in their respective cities to provide digital cable TV services.

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