With just 23 days remaining for the cable TV digitisation deadline of October 31, 2012, the big question is – is the National Capital ready to meet the deadline? The deadline has already been postponed once earlier in July 2012.
The government, in a recent report, has claimed that 73 per cent of the set top boxes (STBs) have been seeded on an average in the four metros – Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata – and that work to install the remaining STBs is in rapid progress.
However, when exchange4media spoke to a cross section of MSOs and LCOs, they brought to the fore a slightly different picture.
As per a release issued last week by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in Delhi, “14.74 lakh STBs have already been installed as against the target of 24.74 lakh, thereby achieving 60 per cent of the target. If DTH is also taken into consideration, then the digitisation progress is about 70 per cent as 8.77 lakh people in Delhi have already subscribed to DTH services. Delhi has shown good pace of installation of STBs in the last one month and currently, about 15,000 STBs are being installed per day in the city.”
Both SN Sharma, CEO, DEN Networks, and Ashok Mansukhani, President, MSO Alliance, agree with the data. Sharma affirmed that the government facts are based on several confirmed sources and added that digitisation will happen. “I think we have completed almost 65-70 per cent. In the remaining days we will install at least 90 per cent of the STBs,” he further said.
Mansukhani noted that while there is considerable scepticism about the government’s estimate of 68 per cent nationally and 98 per cent for Mumbai, it is based on census figures. “All MSOs expect a massive surge in the next two weeks and have lakhs of STBs in stock. So there is no problem,” he asserted.
‘We are heading towards a blackout’
On the other hand, some MSOs disagree with the government figures and ask on what parameters and data the Government is quoting such figures as the reality is that only 38-40 per cent of the STBs have been installed till date.
According to Vikki Chowdhry, Managing Director, Home Cable, a Delhi-based MSO, “We are heading towards a blackout and there is no way the government can go digital in the desired deadline. I wonder from where the government is claiming more than 60 per cent installation of STBs. They must have included the CAS areas of South Delhi.”
The Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI), too, disagrees with the government figures. Talking to exchange4media, Roop Sharma, President, COFI said, “During the last meeting held in September, the government had announced that only 35 per cent installation has been done, and now they are claiming that more than 70 per cent of the installations is over, which is difficult to believe.”
She cited various reasons that have led to the slow penetration of STBs. These include low quality of STBs, extra charge on every STB, every STB will increase the electricity bill by Rs 100 per month.
AK Rastogi, owner of Avishkar Dish Antenna, an LCO operating in Delhi’s Adarsh Nagar area elucidated, “I am very sure that no more than 40 per cent of installation has been completed in entire Delhi and the reason behind this is lack of customer support and unwillingness of LCOs to install STBs in the slum areas.”
Elaborating on the problems, Rastogi said that the previous deadline was better as consumers were taking things seriously, but after the government postponed it, now consumers are taking this deadline lightly.