With the digitisation deadline roughly two weeks away, there is a race to get the set top boxes installed in the four metros that are covered under the first phase – Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai.
While in the case of Delhi, there is a difference between the figures that the Government is quoting and what the LCOs say is the actual figure, in Kolkata, the situation is not much different. In fact, some MSOs and LCOs have gone so far as to express the apprehension of a law and order situation in the City of Joy when screens go blank on November 1. The digitisation scenario in Chennai, too, is chaotic.
Compared to the other three metros, Mumbai is better placed when it comes to the installation of STBs. As per Government data, almost 99 per cent installation has been done.
However, there is a section of MSOs that differs with this figure, stating that only 50 per cent of STB installation has been achieved. They say that while certain areas, such as South Mumbai, have seen near complete coverage, large portions of the slum areas are yet to see the commencement of STB installation.
Sisir Pillai, Chief Strategy Officer, DigiCable Network pointed out that there are several households with more than one television set, who could be taking multiple set top boxes. Hence, the Government data regarding total coverage might not give the correct picture.
Nonetheless, Pillai is optimistic of Mumbai meeting the digitisation deadline of November 1 since “the Government is taking this issue seriously and working under tremendous pressure to meet the deadline”.
Along similar lines, Girish M Kothari, Managing Director, Home System said, “I can’t put a question mark on the Government’s figure and believe that over 80 per cent of the STB installation has been done. We should be able to complete the whole process in the coming two weeks.”
He further said that most MSOs are expecting the digitisation process to get underway on schedule as everyone is taking the deadline seriously this time and the situation is very critical for all.
Slums remain largely untouched
Amid this optimism, there are also voices of concern raised about the large slum pockets still not under the purview of the digitisation process.
Shamim Shaikh, Managing Director, Seven Star Dot Com disagrees with the Government figure and says that only 50 per cent installation of STBs has been done in Mumbai so far. He further said that the ground reality is that the slum areas, which form a sizeable chunk of Mumbai’s population, are yet untouched by the digitisation process and feared that this large number will be without digital signal on November 1.
Highlighting the problem here, he said, “There is scarcity of set top boxes in the city. We had placed our orders one and a half month back. It takes 45 days to manufacture the STBs, another 17 days to ship them and one week to get customs clearance. How can we expect 99 per cent installation by the deadline?”
Meanwhile, apart from the skewed installation numbers, there is a growing buzz about the poor quality of set top boxes since there is no standard procedure to carry out quality checks.
Thus, the road to digitisation is not a smooth one but with several roadblocks along the way. It remains to be seen how much ground can be covered in the two weeks that remain. It truly is a race against time.
Delhi digitisation: Govt says on track, LCOs disagree
Kolkata digitisation: Tussle between Govt & LCO figures
Doubts cast over Chennai’s digitisation drive