Missing set top boxes delaying digitisation process

Meenakshi Verma Ambwani New Delhi | Updated on March 12, 2018


Court stays, revenue pacts add to muddle as Phase 2 deadline ends

Though the deadline for the second phase of digitisation ends Sunday midnight, industry players said it would take more time to complete the mammoth task of installing set top boxes in television households in 38 cities.

April 1 is expected to see chaos and confusion.

As per Government estimates, about 70-71 per cent of the digitisation target has been achieved in 38 cities. Of the 16 million set top boxes required, an estimated 11.2 million have been installed.

Five cities that are estimated to have achieved 100 per cent digitisation include Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Allahabad and Hyderabad. The number of television households that come under the government-notified area in Hyderabad region has been an issue of debate. Cable operators have got a stay on digitisation in Bangalore and Ahmedabad till April 1 and April 8 respectively.

Little awareness

Industry players say it could take an additional 15-30 days to install set top boxes in these 38 cities. Also 8-10 cities have seen very low levels of consumer awareness and digitisation could take even more time.

“Cable operators are awaiting deliveries of the imported set top boxes. Agreements on revenue share between pay television channels and multi system operators (MSOs) have not yet been finalised and some cable operators are yet to get licences to operate in the Digital Addressable System regime,” said Roop Sharma, President, Cable Operators Federation of India.

Eight cities that are said to have achieved over 75 per cent digitisation include Jodhpur, Thane, Aurangabad, Jaipur, Pune, Faridabad, Nashik and Ghaziabad. Government estimates also suggest that 23 towns have achieved over 50 per cent digitisation. Areas such as Srinagar and Visakhapatnam have seen very little digitisation.

“The digitisation process is on in these 38 cities but does not end tonight as it could take three months to stabilise and operators to offer packages and genuine choice to consumers in these cities,” said Ashok Mansukhani, President, MSO Alliance and Director of Hinduja Ventures, which runs Incablenet.

Another senior executive of an MSO who did not wish to be identified said April 1 is expected to see a messy situation as a large number of television viewers still need to go digital in these 38 cities. Cable operators could also look at moving court to seek more time for digitisation.

Even during Phase 1, Kolkata did not get digitised by the end of the stipulated deadline and took two additional months, while in Chennai the matter is still in court.

Indian Broadcasting Foundation, the apex association of broadcasters, had earlier said it would comprehensively switch off analogue signals on March 31 midnight in these 38 cities. Cable operators say it is not clear how that will happen considering complete digitisation has not yet been achieved.

Published on March 31, 2013

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