With the March 31, 2013 deadline for Phase II of DAS just 54 days away, hectic preparations are on in the 38 cities across 15 states covered in this phase. However, the race for digitization seems to have hit a speed bump in Maharashtra, which has nine cities covered under Phase II – Pune, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Thane, Solapur, Navi-Mumbai, Kalyan-Dombivali, Nashik, and Pimpri-Chinchwad.
Unlike in the case of other states such as Uttar Pradesh, where the awareness about Phase II is low, in Maharashtra the awareness is high yet the installation of set top boxes (STBs) has been advancing at a sluggish pace. This has been attributed to the people’s unwillingness to buy the set top boxes, which is troubling the Local Cable Operators (LCOs) and Multi System Operators (MSOs). As per industry reports, so far, approximately 30-40 per cent of the STB installation has been done in these nine cities.
Cable operators in Pune, Nagpur and Aurangabad are confident about meeting the deadline, given the various awareness campaigns that have been running for the last one month, which have generated considerable awareness amongst consumers about the significance of going digital. Anand Runwal, General Manager - Marketing, Siti Cable is also confident about meeting the Phase II deadline as, according to him, the installation of set top boxes in Thane and Navi Mumbai is progressing smoothly.
However, cable operators are concerned about people not coming out to buy the STBs in expected numbers despite the campaigns. As shared by Gopi Raut of Manoj Cable Network, which supplies DEN Networks in Pune, “We are moving at a slow pace as customers are not getting the set top boxes installed. Though we are prepared to meet the deadline, customers’ refusal has led to fears of the deadline getting postponed.”
He further said, “Not just Pune, but other cities too are moving at a slow pace, where we have installed about 40 per cent of the boxes; while 50 per cent seeding has been done in a couple of cities.”
Unlike in Phase I, which was marred by scarcity of STBs, cable operators in Nashik, Solapur, Kalyan-Dombivali, and Pimpri-Chinchwad claim to have adequate number of STBs. However, consumers’ unwillingness and lack of manpower are hampering the installation process.
Though national MSOs such as Incable and DEN are confident of meeting the deadline with 100 per cent installation, local cable operators are not as optimistic.
In an earlier conversation with exchange4media, Ashok Mansukhani, Whole Time Director, Hinduja Ventures had said, “In Phase II, some of the cities do not have digital headends. There have to be concerted efforts on part of the Government, the regulator, MSOs, cable operators and broadcasters to quickly map out which of the 38 cities are doable and which are not doable, as it is better to postpone the date in those cities that are not doable instead of doing half-baked digitisation. My personal expectation is that of the 38 cities, digitisation will happen in about 25 cities.”
Meanwhile, the government is upbeat about Phase II of digitisation. In a statement made about two weeks’ back, Secretary for Information and Broadcasting, Uday Kumar Varma, had stated, “It has been estimated that 16 million set top boxes would be required to digitise the 38 cities, excluding the four metros. A study conducted by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has revealed that six million TV sets in these cities are already digitised.”
He further said that the Ministry has been reviewing the progress on a continuous basis and nodal officers have been appointed in every state to oversee the conversion process.
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