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MIB allows Arasu Cable a month’s extension to switch to digital

MUMBAI: The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) has extended Tamil Nadu government-owned Arasu Cable TV Corporation’s deadline to digitise its analogue cable TV network by a month.

This came after a request by the Tamil Nadu government to the MIB to stretch the digitisation deadline for the multi-system operator (MSO) Arasu Cable by three months.

After considering the state government’s request, the minstry decided to grant only one month’s extension.

Arasu will thus have to achieve total digitisation by 17 August, failing which its MSO licence will either be suspended or revoked.

“You (Arasu) are directed to switch over to digital completely by 17.8.2017, failing which your registration is likely to be suspended/revoked,” the MIB wrote to Arasu.

Earlier, the MIB had granted provisional MSO licence to Arasu to operate in the Tamil Nadu state with the condition that the MSO would digitise its analogue cable TV network within three months. The deadline specified Arasu to make the switchover to digital cable by 17 July.

However, on 6 June the government of Tamil Nadu wrote to the MIB requesting for a three-month extension.

The MIB’s letter to Arasu granting only one month’s extension was dated 21 June.

Arasu is in the process of procuring 70 lakh set-top boxes (STBs). In May, it had issued a global tender for the supply of STBs. The bid submission date for digital STBs, however, was extended to 9 June after bidders had expressed several concerns about certain conditions in the tender. Prominent among them was the STB replacement warranty period of five years. Subsequently, Arasu received interest from five players.

As reported earlier by TelevisionPost.com, the granting of provisional registration to Arasu is subject to the MIB taking a final call on the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) recommendations suggesting entry barriers for state government or its entities in the TV broadcasting and distribution sector.

“Arasu has been granted provisional registration. They have been given three months’ time to complete the digitisation exercise. The provisional licence is subject to the MIB taking a final decision on TRAI’s recommendations. If those recommendations are accepted, then they have to exit as recommended by TRAI,” an MIB official had then told TelevisionPost.com on the condition of anonymity.

“The grant of provisional registration shall not confer any right on the applicant to claim regular registration. The provisional registration will also stand cancelled in the event regular registration is refused,” the MIB stated.

The official said that the decision had been taken at a high level. “There are two reasons why Arasu has been granted a licence. One is the Madras High Court had directed the MIB to take a decision on Arasu’s application. Second, Arasu was earlier granted CAS licence to operate in Chennai,” the official stated.

When Arasu was given provisional licence, it was for the first time that the DAS licence had been provided to a state government agency.

The ruling All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) has promised to provide free STBs to consumers. This has made private MSOs jittery, who feel that they will also have to offer STBs free or see customers migrate to Arasu.

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