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DAS Phase II: LCOs in Gujarat want deadline postponed

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DAS Phase II: LCOs in Gujarat want deadline postponed

With the March 31, 2013 deadline for DAS Phase II just 45 days away, it seems like a repeat of the Phase I problems with chaotic arrangements in the 38 cities across 15 states covered in the second phase.

Gujarat has four major cities – Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat and Vadodara – covered in Phase II. All four cities are witnessing lack of interest from consumers, besides being hampered by the lengthy process of installing the set top boxes (STBs) and also shortage of STBs. This has led to doubts about whether the March 31 deadline will be met.

Talking to exchange4media, Kanaksinh Rana, Director, Gujarat Telelink said, “The installation of STBs is proceeding smoothly, however, I am not sure about meeting the March 31 deadline due to scarcity of boxes.”

According to Hasankhan Gulamadir Pathan, an Ahmedabad-based cable operator, “There are two prominent issues. The first is lack of interest from consumers. They have a perception that if the deadline can be delayed in the metro cities, other cities too can get a relief of 3-6 months. The second issue is the low supply of set top boxes. Currently, only 20 per cent of the STB installation has been done in Ahmedabad.”

Agreeing with Pathan, Kausar Ajmeri, another cable operator from Ahmedabad, said, “The demand for the boxes is 100 per cent, but the supply is only 20-25 per cent. Due to this we will not be able to complete the installation of set top boxes in the city by the deadline date.”

The operators in Ahmedabad further said that people are habituated with the analogue channels and are not ready to pay more than Rs 200 for their cable connections. This trend is seen across economic groups and people are reluctant to invest a bigger sum to buy set top boxes.

Meanwhile, cable operators in Rajkot are being stonewalled by consumer apathy towards installation of STBs and also by the lengthy installation procedure.

Jitendra Nagdev, a cable operator from Rajkot, shared, “The entire cable wire has to be replaced and it takes very long time for each installation. More than that, we need to make the customer understand about the digitisation process and convince them that it will be a reality very soon.”

According to cable operators in Rajkot, 30 per cent of the STB installation has been done.

Given the ground realities, there is a growing call for postponing the digitisation deadline amongst the cable operators in Gujarat.

On the other hand, the Government is upbeat about Phase II of digitisation. In a recent statement, 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 and 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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