The process of switching off the analogue cable signals and moving on to digital addressable system (DAS) has started with at least two metros – Delhi and Mumbai – honouring the October 31 deadline to discontinue the analogue signals. In is learnt that hundreds of TV households in these two metros, where digital cable or a direct-to-home (DTH) connections were not installed, suffered blackout at the stroke of midnight on October 31. In Kolkata there was a blackout of a few channels in certain areas, but as of now channels are resumed with the backing of the Mamta Banerjee-led state government.
Chennai consumers, however, have got a breather for at least till Monday, when the Madras High Court will hear the petition on whether or not to extend the deadline further.
Talking on the transition, Ashok Manshukhani, president of the MSO Alliance said, “The whole process has been smoother than it was anticipated by many. It has been a joint effort on the part of ministry and MSOs and other stakeholders. In the coming weeks, the greater challenge will be of giving effective and attractive choice to consumers within the regulatory framework.”
“The beginning of the digitisation process has been extremely successful. Our compliments to government for the way they acted. It was very professional of them to take all the stakeholders together. Now it will definitely initiate the drive for the other cities,” MG Azhar, COO of multi-system-operator (MSO) DEN Networks told Business Standard.
He said that with the blackout, there will be uptake in demand of the set-top-boxes (STBs) from homes which have not installed them yet. “Within 15-20 days the remaining people will get the boxes. Majority of multiple TV households had taken only one STB and were waiting to see if the blackout actually happens. Now they will also opt for connections. Also, there might be piracy in some
areas, which MSOs and broadcaster will raid and take care of,” Azhar added.
Meanwhile, in Kolkata, according to industry estimates about 8 lakh cable TV customers are yet to switchover to DAS. Out of the total 23 lakh total cable connections in the city under 9 multiple system operators (MSOs) and more than 5,000 operators, till now 15 lakh have got set boxes installed.
“As far as our company is concerned, we still have about 1.5 lakh more set top boxes lying with our operators for installation, while we have availed it to 7 lakh houses till now,” says Suresh Sethia, director of Siti Cable, one of the largest MSOs in the city. While all the 9 MSOs got digitalisation licences in the city, availability of STBs is still a concern for all of them.
Earlier this month, state chief minister Banerjee had asked the Centre to extend this deadline as MSOs complained that they were yet to receive about 40 to 50 per cent of set top boxes. However, operators today said that while all the single television homes are covered, multiple-TV homes are still pending. The state government has already requested MSOs to continue analogue services, as a blackout may affect common man.
More wait in Chennai
LCOs in Chennai have pressed that at least 30 lakh STBs would require to meet the digitisation mandate in the city. According to Chennai Metro Cable TV (CAS) Operators Association (CCTOA), an organisation of the LCOs in the city, there are only around 1.64 lakh active STBs in the city till end of October, while the total number of subscribers in Chennai is around 40 lakh.
“We have submitted the court that there are hardly any stock of STB in the city now and switching over to digitised mode would affect a majority of the subscribers in the city and would be against the interest of the public,” said Johnson D Kennedy, president, CCTOA.
He added that the city requires around 30 lakh STBs, while the current stocks among the MSOs is around 15,000 units. “Even yesterday, one of our members has booked 200 boxes from one of the MSOs which asked a delivery period of 14-21 days to fulfil the orders,” said Kennedy.
In Tamil Nadu, earlier there were only two MSOs, Sumangali Cable Vision and Jack Communications. At present, there are around six MSOs including some formed by groups of LCOs. The state-run Arasu Cable Corporation, which has recently launched its control room in Chennai, is another major MSO which offers both analogue and digital services.
Both SCV and Jack Communications have already announced the price of STB as Rs 1350 and Rs 1100, respectively, while Arasu Cable is yet to announce their price of STBs. The prices of the boxes vary depending on the supplier of the product and the features of the box.