Northeast is finally getting connected to the mainstream. The ambitious northeast cable headend project, that Doordarshan had announced with much fanfare sometime back, is being rolled out.
So far, four cable head ends have been set up in the region, and another 156 will follow. By March 2003, the project is expected to be completed, according to a senior official of the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Ltd (Becil), the infrastructure company installing the facilities.
According to sources, around 10,000 households stand to benefit, when the project is completed in all of 160 centres. And the downside: Even as television cable wire will reach areas where it has been a dream so far, consumers will get to see only five Doordarshan channels.
There’s no proposal to include private channels in the cable headend project right now, but say sources that it cannot be ruled out over a period of time. Till then of course, there won’t be any of the starry soaps that keep TRPs (television rating points) ticking.
On offer now is a bouquet of five DD channels—National, Metro, Regional, Bharati and World. Although there’s no sports channel yet, DD Sports may be available once it becomes a free-to-air channel, it is felt. Besides, there may be some more extensions, taking the number of channels up to ten perhaps. But any additional channel will mean higher investment.
For a total of 160 centres, the investment being made is around Rs 7.2 crore, but with additional channels, the cost will shoot up, said sources. As for consumers in the region, the payment structure is still being worked out. Till then, the service is free of cost. Even when pricing is fixed, it may be tough to collect the monthly cable subscription from this region.
Operational on C-band, the cable headend project in the northeast is quite similar to the cable TV system that we see in bigger cities, minus the private satellite channels. Since commercial viability of the regular cable/satellite TV project is doubtful in remote regions, government decided to opt for a localised cable headend project, which would mainly be a DD affair.
And if all goes well, and the 10,000-odd northeast homes, which will be connected to the cable headend project, are upbeat about it, this first of its kind initiative may yield results elsewhere too. While Ku-band broadcasting projects are being implemented in some far-flung areas, the cable headend initiative on C-band may connect others to the mainland!