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TDSAT to decide if MSOs can start digital transmission before DAS

MUMBAI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) is all set to decide whether multi-system operators (MSOs) have the right to commence digital transmission even before the area comes under digital addressable system (DAS). It will also decide how it would affect the subsisting agreement, if any, between the local cable operators (LCOs) and the MSOs.

The tribunal has posted the matter between Punjab’s Malwa Cable Operator Sangarsh Committee and MSO Fastway Transmission for orders as the last case on 22 December.

On hearing both sides, the tribunal has proposed to post the main issue arising in the case first and the rest may follow the order on this issue.

The committee’s lawyer Vineet Bhagat filed an affidavit that, according to him, explains the anomalies pointed out in Fastway’s application concerning payments made by the different LCOs being represented by the petitioner.

The parties are in dispute on a number of issues that include: (i) the rate at which the LCOs are liable to make payment for the signals received from the petitioner; (ii) whether even at the rate admitted by the petitioner (i.e. Rs 35 per STB) full payments have been made by each of the LCOs to the MSO; and (iii) whether as a result of the respondent’s/MSO’s action, some of the LCOs have suffered substantial loss in their subscriber base.

The tribunal, however, noted that the principal question pertaining to the case is whether it is open to the MSO to insist on supplying signals in digital mode alone in areas that are yet to come under digital regime.

The LCOs represented by the petitioner are operating in the Malwa region of Punjab, part of which is likely to come under the DAS regime from 1 January 2016, but the larger rural part of which would come under DAS regime only in 2017.

The MSO has started giving its signals in digital mode from July 2014 and has been insisting that the LCOs should take set-top boxes (STBs) and should start retransmitting the signals in digital mode from that date, which is at the core of controversy between the two sides.