At the round table on implementation of cable TV digitisation, Information and Broadcasting Ministry Secretary Uday Kumar Varma cleared that there will be no more extensions to the deadline set for the implementation of set-top boxes (STBs) across Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. Reports quoted Varma as saying, “Given the fact that government is mandated by Parliament to ensure digitisation in the time it is notified, there is no possibility of further extension. My appeal and request to all of you is to conclude negotiations quickly, seed the set top boxes….and ensure that on 1st November it is fully functional.”

No more deadline extensions

No more deadline extensions (Image credit: Getty Images)

The round table also saw TRAI Chairman Rahul Khullar and the stakeholders including broadcasters, Multi-system Operators (MSOs) and Local Cable Operators as attendees. Reports add further that Varma also rejected the suggestion that the digitisation process in Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai was very slow. He was quoted here as saying, “You can't say that it is very slow. If you judge from the space of seeding of Set Top Boxes (STBs) (it is about) 35 to 40 per cent. I think most of the MSOs have assured us that they should be able to do the seeding in these metros.”

When asked about Delhi, Varma added that the problem with Delhi was that there were too many players. He, however, added that, “But they are still doing it and we are hopeful that they will do it (on time).” As for Chennai, he added, “Once they are able to put the process in place, it would not take much time. Because there is much of multiplicity of MSOs in Chennai.”

When asked about her views on mandatory digitisation, one homeowner we spoke to said, “I think it’s a good move as people often steal a cable connection which causes inconvenience to others. Instead, by paying the same price, people get good picture clarity, their choice of channels and also the option of recording shows if they miss them.” Another user was of the opinion that “digitisation is for the better, as the downtime that used to occur due to cable failure or no electric connection at the operator's office, etc, is completely eliminated.” Most cable subscribers told us that apart from the cost of installation, their monthly cable bills come to Rs 300–400. 

Cable TV digitisation in essence puts an end to the rather lengthy run of analogue cable in our country, and will set in place a TV viewing experience defined entirely by digital cable. This massive transformation came at the end of what has been an amendment to Section 4A of the Cable Regulation Act, 1995. The amended act now paves the way for the compulsory implementation of mandatory addressable digitisation (MAD). The new ruling essentially implies that all cable operators will have to switch to digital transmission of signals instead of the earlier analog – before their aforementioned deadlines.

Those users subscribing to cable operators who do not comply with the new rules (i.e. switching over to digital signals) will not be able to view any of their TV programmes, post the scheduled deadline. Earlier reports confirmed that since only 25 percent of set top boxes were placed in cable TV homes across the four metros – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, the scheduled deadline was pushed further to November 1, 2012.

To know what the Cable TV digitisation will actually cost you, click here.  

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