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MIB claims 80% digitisation achieved in Phase III, some MSOs complain of STB shortage in task force meeting

MUMBAI: Even as the Hyderabad and Madras High Courts have stayed the digital addressable system (DAS) implementation in Telangana and Tamil Nadu, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) has firmly stated that the 31 December deadline is sacrosanct.

It has asked all three stakeholders—broadcasters, multi-system operators (MSOs) and local cable operators (LCOs)—to ensure that analogue signals are not transmitted after the deadline. Broadcasters will disconnect signals to MSOs who do not have a valid registration or an interconnection agreement.

During the DAS task force meeting in Delhi today, the MIB special secretary and DAS task force chairperson JS Mathur told the stakeholders that more than 80 per cent (excluding Tamil Nadu) digitisation has been achieved in Phase III areas.

He also revealed that direct-to-home (DTH) operators have seeded 16 million set-top boxes (STBs) while Freedish alone has another four million STBs. The MSOs have seeded 7-8 million STBs.

R-Jaya-mibMIB joint secretary for broadcasting R Jaya said that there would be no extension of the deadline.

Speaking to TelevisionPost.com, Jaya said that the seeding of STBs is progressing well. “We are still compiling the figures, which will come by 31 December. DTH is a major segment in this particular population,” she added.

In the earlier task force meeting on 11 December, the MSOs had informed the MIB about the shortage of STBs.

The representative of Siti Cable Anil Malhotra informed that against a requirement of four million STBs, they have deployed 1.8 million and that another one million STBs are on the way.

The MSO is airlifting STBs from China and the supplies are getting delayed due to component shortage faced by Chinese manufacturers. He added that they had also placed orders for STBs with a Korean company but at higher rates.

GTPL Hathway COO Shaji Matthews mentioned that against the requirement of three million STBs, they have already procured one million and that the remaining two million are on the way.

Ortel president and CEO Bibhu Prasad Rath mentioned that their requirement is 0.5 million. They have done 25 per cent of seeding so far. They are not expecting supply of STBs from China before 15 January 2016 due to spring holidays there.

The representative of CEAMA Mohit Verma mentioned that the domestic manufacturers have received orders of about two million STBs from small MSOs. He was advised to ensure that STBs are supplied on time.

DTH association representative Anil Khera mentioned that they have installed about 18 million STBs so far and that about 4–5 million STBs are in stock.

He was told that seeding data received from DTH operators was not according to the list of urban areas notified by the ministry. He was told to send this data as per this list.

The MSO representatives mentioned that since some areas under Phase III are contiguous with Phase IV areas, they would have to take both digital and analogue signals from their headends to cater to Phase III and Phase IV areas respectively. They were told to ensure that no analogue signals are carried in Phase III areas after 31 December 2015.

The representatives of broadcasters assured that separate IRDs would be supplied to MSOs for feeding Phases III and IV areas separately. MSOs would need to ensure that only digital addressable signals are transmitted in Phase III areas. MSOs must also ensure segregation of Phases III and IV areas so that the timelines for digitisation are adhered to in both areas.

However, voluntary digitisation in Phase IV areas is advisable. One MSO mentioned that the STBs ordered by his company are held up with customs for want of BIS certification. He was told to write to the ministry in this regard with details so that the matter could be taken up with BIS for expediting the certification process.

The representative of LCOs from Assam mentioned that some MSOs are seeding STBs without CAS. On this issue, the IBF was asked to check and take action. He proposed that LCOs should be allowed to feed analogue signals during breakdown of links.

Taking objection to this proposal, the representative of the broadcasters said that this would result in piracy and could not be supported. He suggested that MSOs should have standby links. In this connection, the headend-in-the-sky (HITS) representative said that HITS is an alternative solution to this problem.

The HITS representative mentioned that since the TDSAT has settled the issue of rate of channels, the MIB and TRAI should now help to resolve their issues. It was decided that TRAI would hold a separate meeting with the HITS operators to resolve their issues.