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Friday, Jul 04, 2003

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Zone-wise CAS rollout likely in Delhi, Mumbai

Our Bureau


IT could well be a staggered rollout of the conditional access system (CAS) if the Government agrees to the recommendation of a zone-wise implementation made by multi-system operators (MSOs) and cable operators on Thursday.

According to their proposal, to begin with CAS could be introduced zone-wise in Delhi and Mumbai from July 15. Delhi has been divided into four zones with CAS being introduced in the South Zone first, while Mumbai has been divided into three zones with CAS being implemented in the southern part of the city first. However, in the case of Chennai and Kolkata, CAS would come into play from July 15. This suggestion by MSOs was conveyed to the Government to ensure that there was no black out of channels after implementation of CAS.

"We (MSOs) have reached a consensus on zone-wise implementation and have earmarked the first roll out in Southern Delhi and South Mumbai as far as these two cities are concerned," Mr Rajiv Vyas of Hinduja TMT, told newspersons after a meeting with officials of the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) Ministry. Representatives from Siti Cable and Hathway were also present at the meeting.

Officials in the I&B Ministry acknowledged that this proposal seemed to be feasible as other options such as dual feed and genre-wise tiering of channels have been more-or-less ruled out. If the Government decides to go-ahead with the zone-wise roll out, then a series of notifications would have to be issued for different areas.

According to the January 14 notification, pay channels should be transmitted through an addressable system in Chennai Metropolitan area, Municipal Council of Greater Mumbai area, Kolkata Metropolitan area and National Capital Territory of Delhi.

The MSOs also added that factors such as affluence, socio-economic dynamics, requirement and availability have led to the selection of the specific zones in Delhi and Mumbai. Here, they said that full implementation of CAS in these cities could be completed in 12 weeks' time. Officials in the cable industry also added that in the case of Chennai and Kolkata, the cities do not have several operators and hence CAS could be rolled out immediately. Senior officials from the I&B Ministry are expected to take stock of the CAS preparedness in these two cities, where the popular channels are free-to-air.

Meanwhile with the broadcasters and MSOs still wrangling over rates of pay channels, the two sides are likely to meet tomorrow to discuss the issue face to face.

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