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Chennai likely to miss digitisation deadline

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Chennai likely to miss digitisation deadline

Shortage of set top boxes (STBs) might derail the digitisation process in Chennai. As seen in Delhi’s case, Local Cable Operators (LCOs) and Multi System Operators (MSOs) are ill-prepared to meet the deadline of July 1, 2012.

Chennai-based LCOs have even written a letter to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), requesting it to postpone the digitisation deadline to December 2012. However, there has been no response from MIB so far.

Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) has been holding regular meetings with government officials to resolve these issues but no solution is in sight yet.

Talking to exchange4media, SPK Goguldoss, President, Tamil Nadu Cable TV Service Providers Association said, “Nothing has happened so far; the existing MSOs are not ready to invest in the STBs as they can’t generate revenue for the boxes. We are adopting a wait and watch attitude as we are not even sure whether we will be able to survive in the industry post June 30 because of the low revenue margin of just Rs 45.”

‘Tamil Nadu government ready for digitisation’
Meanwhile, Bala Subramanium, owner of Satellite Division, an LCO operating in Chennai, informed that the Tamil Nadu government announced on May 18 that it was ready to go digital from July 1 and planned to offer 500 channels, 20 of which would be HD channels.

The LCOs have been asked to place their orders for STBs and plans are afoot to set up control rooms to resolve subscribers’ issues.

However, Subramanium raised concerns about the availability of STBs. He said that he had 2,000 subscribers, of which just 300 were already in digital mode. 1,700 STBs are still needed and he is not sure whether the government will be able to supply the remaining STBs on time. Moreover, the price of the set top boxes has not been revealed yet.

“I don’t understand why the government is in a hurry, as it is understood that no metro city will be able to meet the deadline of July 1,” said Roop Sharma, President, COFI. She further said that COFI was planning to take this matter to court and would request to postpone the deadline.

Meanwhile, DTH service providers are gearing up to meet the anticipated demand for DTH connections. Salil Kapoor, COO, Dish TV informed, “We have created a parallel network channel of recharge or e-payments with SVR, Oxigen, ITZ, MPonline, etc. We have increased our dealer network manifolds and are educating them to reach out to customers.”

He further said that in each of the four metros – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai – Dish TV had created a network of dealers to upgrade and further enhance its visibility. “Customer care centres have been hugely upgraded and expanded to cater to the queries of existing as well as prospective customers, Kapoor added.

There are around 1,200 LCOs in Chennai and the demand for set top boxes in the southern metro stands at 35 lakh. However, only three lakh STBs are currently available in Chennai, which raises serious doubts about the metro meeting the digitisation deadline.

Despite numerous attempts, no official from Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation could be contacted for comments.

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