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Hyderabad’s analogue signal piracy and the DAS conundrum

MUMBAI: Despite being a fledgling metro city with a thriving IT industry, Hyderabad has turned out to be a big pain point for multi-system operators (MSOs) servicing the digital addressable system (DAS) areas.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s decision to notify the erstwhile Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad (MCH) rather than the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) as a DAS-notified area meant that cable TV digitisation has remained a non-starter in the city.

By making MCH as the DAS boundary, the government left out almost 60 per cent of the city of Hyderabad. MCH comprises mainly the densely populated Old Hyderabad area.

The confusion over DAS boundary has resulted in analogue signals being freely transmitted even in the MCH area, which was supposed to go digital from 1 April 2013.

This has put paid to the ambitions of national MSOs like Hathway Cable & Datacom and Siti Cable to start collecting money from the local cable operators (LCOs). Currently, the LCOs are paying a lump sum amount.

The MSOs have an ambition of collecting Rs 50 per set-top box (STB). A senior Hathway executive said that unity among the MSOs would soon ensure that Rs 50 gets collected from the LCOs.

However, considering the ground situation, it looks like a distant dream, till at least Phase III is implemented. Once Phase III is completed, the issue of DAS area will vanish.

“In GHMC, which is a non-DAS area, analogue signals are being transmitted. LCOs in MCH are taking analogue signals from GHMC areas and re-transmitting them in MCH. Till the government cracks down on this practice, there is no hope of collecting money from the ground,” said a cable TV executive from Hyderabad.

He pointed out two options—either GHMC is notified as a DAS area or Phase III is implemented by 31 December. “Till Phase III is implemented, the issue of piracy of analogue signals will not be tackled,” the executive added.

Another executive from a leading MSO stated that Hyderabad is still an analogue market as customer application forms (CAF) are not being collected and billing is not happening.

This executive said that the government should strictly enforce DAS in Hyderabad. “DAS has been implemented in 40 per cent of the old municipal corporation area, but 60 per cent of Hyderabad is in the new GHMC area. Some buildings are in DAS, some are non-DAS. Nowhere in the country has this happened,” the executive lamented.

The majority of MSOs in Hyderabad are waiting for Phase III to get implemented so that they can start collecting their fair share of subscription revenue from LCOs.