Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, and Kolkata are only a few days away from the first-wave of digitisation scheduled. Customers with questions pertaining to the process, and other specifics can now use the toll-free number that the Information and Broadcasting ministry (I&B ministry) has set up. The ministry expects the move to help facilitate a smooth transition for customers to the digital platform, before the scheduled deadline — October 31, 2012.  

On October 15, the I&B ministry set up its control room. Now those with queries pertaining to the process can use the toll-free number 1-800-180-4343. The service is functional on all days, including holidays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. With the setting up of a control room, the ministry hopes to “address and clarify” issues relating to buying set top boxes (STBs), different schemes available at the time of the purchase of STBs, package rates offered by MSOs, among other things.

Control room for a smoother digitisation (Image credit: Getty Images)

Control room for a smoother digitisation (Image Credit: Getty Images)

Interestingly, representatives of five national level MSOs namely DEN, In Cable, Hathway, Digi Cable, and Siti Cable are available in the control room during this period to address any specific queries relating to their respective networks/services.

In June this year, the scheduled deadline for digitisation got pushed further to November 1, 2012 after it was found that only 25 percent of set top boxes were placed in cable TV homes across the four metros – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, just days before the switch was originally scheduled (June 30, 2012), as reported by the Times of India. 

The report at the time revealed that, “The I&B ministry said that it had decided to “modify'' the June 30 deadline for a complete switch over to October 31 2012. A statement by the ministry said, “All the TRAI regulations for digital addressable systems will come into effect from November 1, 2012.'' It said that the assessment of ground realities compelled the Ministry of I&B to set a new deadline which would now be monitored more vigorously.”

The report further quoted a ministry official as saying, “Only one-fourth of TV viewing houses have access to set top boxes. There was also a delay by TRAI in introducing the tariff order that came in April instead of January.”

Chennai and Kolkata, reportedly were far from what would require them to reach the stipulated deadline. In Chennai, only 12.5 percent of the subscribers had set-top boxes. This report also carried the quote of P Sakilan, the operators' association president, who added that, “It is highly impossible to launch digital network in Chennai before July.” Sakilan further stated that even if they were to provide the set-top boxes for free to the viewers, it would take four months to import them, test-run them, and deliver to 40 lakh viewers in Chennai. Sakilan, had also stated that the biggest challenge for operators lay in convincing the masses to pay amounts like Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 1,500 for the set-top boxes, moreso because of the total 40 lakh viewers in Chennai, roughly 25 lakh belong to the middle and lower class families, who would find the amount beyond their means. 

Cable operators across Mumbai and Delhi, reportedly had moved court seeking an extension to the deadline, and according to the earlier report an Edelweiss report had revealed that both, Chennai and Kolkata would likely miss the deadline and that the respective governments had sought for a deadline extension.

To know what digitisation will cost you, go here

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