Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is soon to come up with a regulatory framework for the cable TV industry in the next two to three months.
Pradip Baijal, Chairman, TRAI, informed about the framework over his special address on the second day of the fifth FICCI Frames 2004 – the annual global convention on entertainment industry in Mumbai, yesterday. "The final draft of the consultative paper on cable TV will come up in about a week’s time and the regulation for the industry will be framed in two to three months’ time," Baijal said.
The national telecom regulator had earlier constituted a special committee comprising representatives of different State Governments and TRAI. The committee would work on the various issues relating to Cable TV and provide inputs to it. Alongside telecom, TRAI is also looking into the controversial issue of conditional access system. (CAS).
However, a section of the cable operators’ community is not much in favour of Baijal’s comments on tariff regulation on carriage, though they refused to comment on the issue.
Ashok Mansukhani, Executive Vice President-Corporate Affairs, Hinduja TMT said, “IndusInd Media and Communications has filed a case against TRAI in TDSAT on February 19th public statement, diluting TRAI’s January-15 tariff notification. The first hearing on the case was on March 12. The next hearing on the matter will come up again on April 7. As the matter is subjudice, we do not want to comment on the issue.”
Baijal was categorical in his special address, mentioning that the focus of the regulation was to look into the tariff issues and not into the pricing issues of content. “Cable TV costing cannot be done by the regulator,” he averred. According to him, the only way the Cable TV industry in this country could flourish was by giving the consumer a choice.
In line with the existing inter-connect regime within the telecom industry, Baijal further hinted that the same could be applied for the cable and satellite TV industry. This, he said, was possible due to the huge 50-million cable TV households and 45-million fixed telephone lines. “This could give a huge growth to broadband,” he observed.
Baijal, however, made it clear that there was no clear-cut view on any of the issues. "We are looking at a number of options and various models but no final decision has been made on any of the issues," he said.
Lamenting on the poor Internet penetration in the country, he said that there were only four internet connections per 10,000 persons in India and only 2 broadband connections per 10,000, and the key to increasing penetration was lying in lowering tariffs.
Citing example of the mobile telephony business in India, he pointed out that during 2002, there were only 10 million mobile connections – even after eight years of its existence in the country. Once the tariffs were brought down due to the onset of increasing competition, the mobile penetration numbers increased three times to 30 million subscribers in 2003. Baijal felt that the role of the regulator was in helping the industry grow and, not ensure its profitability.