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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cable TV digitisation is a challenging task

As the June 30 deadline for the first phase of cable TV digitisation - switching from analogue to digital and compulsory use of set-top boxes (STBs) - draws near, multi-system operators (MSOs) and the direct-to-home (DTH) industry is gearing up to meet the huge demand for STBs, which is expected to be around 90 lakh sets.

Large number of STBs are being imported from China posing a challenging task for MSOs as well as DTH operators.

But the DTH industry is confidant about meeting the STB demand in the given deadline.

According to Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer, Tata Sky, the DTH industry has got all that it takes to cater for the customer during the digitisation phase.

"This technological edge will further be reinforced by the fact that best options can be made available to consumers as per their preferences," he says.

The digital cable industry too is upbeat about the digitalisation. "Digital cable TV can actually beam similar superior picture quality as provided by DTH operators," says K. Jayaraman, MD and chief executive officer, Hathway Cable and Datacom.

However, cable operators are pushing hard to extend the deadline. Roop Sharma, president, Cable Operators Federation of India, the largest association of independent cable operators in the country, says MSOs will not be able to meet the demand for STBs by June 30.

"People will not be able to watch TV for many months in metros. The government needs to understand the ground reality. We have asked for postponing the deadline by, at least, six months," she says.

STBs need to be installed to enable an estimated 10 million homes across Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata to meet the deadline. But with India going digital at the same time as Brazil, Russia, China and South Korea, among other countries, STBs makers are finding it difficult to meet delivery deadlines despite most leading manufacturers, based in China, ramping up production manifold.

DTH operators, who use satellite and dish antennae, are therefore well placed to grab the business from cable operators.

Nearly, 80 per cent of the 70,000-odd cable operators are believed to be independent players, who are also finding it difficult to absorb the rise in the cost of imported STBs due to rupee depreciation.

But the government is keen on the switch-over to further erosion of service tax revenues.


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