The Phase 2 process of cable digitisation is proving to be no less a challenge than the first phase. With the March 31, 2013 just 40 days away, a new problem has cropped up in the form of a 25-day strike in a major set top box (STB) manufacturing company in China. This has hampered the supply of STBs, leading to apprehensions of the March 31 deadline not being met.
So far, there has been no reaction from the Government regarding this latest development. In a statement given some time back, Secretary for Information and Broadcasting, Uday Kumar Varma, had said that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) has been reviewing the digitisation progress on a continuous basis and nodal officers have been appointed in every state to oversee the conversion process.
As may be recalled, Phase 2 covers 38 cities across 15 states.
One such state is Madhya Pradesh, which has three major cities – Bhopal, Jabalpur and Indore – covered in Phase 2. As per industry reports, so far only about 20-25 per cent of the set top boxes have been installed in Bhopal, Indore and Jabalpur. Cable operators are worried about the scarcity of STBs and are staring at the prospect of postponement of the March 31 deadline.
Rajendra Mishra, owner of Rava Networks, a local cable operator in Jabalpur, shared that while people are ready to switch to digital, there are not enough set top boxes in stock. “While big multi system operators (MSOs) such as Siti Cable and Digicable are doing well, the smaller operators are facing problems,” he added.
The operators say that around 13-15 lakh STBs are needed in these three cities of Madhya Pradesh, but only around 2.5 lakh boxes have been installed till date, which cover just about 20 per cent of the total market. The operators state that while they are ready to go ahead with the upgrading process, their wait for STBs is stretching further.
Raja Khan, owner of Raj Cable Communication, a local cable operator in Bhopal, confirmed that the strike in the Chinese STB manufacturing company has disrupted the supply of STBs and has hit the operators’ preparations for DAS Phase 2.
Meanwhile, cable operators are also faced with the prospect of losing their customers to DTH service. As shared by Surendra Yadav of RTO Cable, “When we are approaching customers to get the set top box installed, they say that they would rather go for a DTH service provider than get a digital set top box installed. And where customers have shown their interest in getting STBs installed, there are not enough boxes available as the strike in China has hampered supplies very badly.”
The Madhya Pradesh Government is holding meetings on a regular basis to track the digitisation progress in the state. The appointed officials are in touch with the operators and discussing ways to break through the roadblocks. There are various campaigns going on in cable television and newspapers to highlight the importance of digitisation and create consumer awareness.
On the other hand, the Government remains upbeat about Phase II of digitisation. In a recent statement, 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 and Broadcasting has revealed that six million TV sets in these cities are already digitised.”
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