iCAS launch has brought down the price of STBs: ByDesign’s Jayesh Dubey

MUMBAI: Launched in 2016, Bengaluru-based ByDesign’s indigenous conditional access system (CAS) iCAS is making rapid strides. The locally manufactured CAS has been integrated at 148 multi system operator (MSO) locations catering to 1.4 million set top box (STB) units.

Velankani Group and ByDesign India VP Jayesh Dubey asserts that the launch of iCAS has led to a drop in standard definition (SD) set top box (STB) prices. He also stated that iCAS has forced foreign vendors to cut down the price of their CAS.

“Biggest advantage of iCAS is that the prices of STBs have dropped from Rs 1250-1400 to Rs 750-900 for SD MPEG 4 Boxes. Because of iCAS, all foreign vendors also had to drop the price of their CAS as well as STBs,” Dubey told TelevisionPost.com in an interaction.

iCAS is a project initiated by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to encourage indigenous manufacturing of STBs.

The total cost of iCAS project was Rs 29.9 crore of which Rs 19.9 crore was provided by the MeitY while the rest of the funding was generated by ByDesign. The intellectual property (IP) rights of the CAS are held by ByDesign.

Even though iCAS has come a long way, Dubey believes that the potential was even high. But for a few external factors the result would have been remarkably different, Dubey said.

According to Dubey, the two factors that put the speed breaker on the deployment of iCAS is the availability of non-standard headend infrastructure in digital addressable system (DAS) 3 and 4 markets due to which there were problems in integration with the headend.

Many MSOs had bought non-standard unbranded imported headends in DAS 3 and 4 markets as the focus was on lower cost even if the product is of substandard quality.

The second reason is that the Indian market got flooded with cheap imported STBs with non-advanced security CAS as there is no standardisation for advanced embedded security based STBs even for HD services/channels.

“We are not satisfied with the progress made so far as we believe that this could have been better but because of these two major key challenges we faced in the field,” Dubey noted.

He also said that the only way for iCAS from here is up as it has reached a critical mass. “iCAS has been integrated at 148 MSO locations across India which is catering to around 1.4 million STB units,” he stated.

Another big opportunity lost by iCAS was DAS Phase 1 and 2 markets as most of the major MSOs had by then installed multiple CAS’.

Dubey noted that iCAS project was awarded to ByDesign in November 2014, the development was completed in November 2015 and from January 2016 the integration with MSO headends started.

“iCAS lost a big opportunity in DAS Phase 1 and 2 as the big MSOs had already deployed multiple CAS by the time iCAS as a product was launched in January 2016. In Phase 3 and 4, big MSOs are mulling to deploy iCAS,” he added.

He also said that the DAS Phase 3 and 4 is an unattended territory as major Advanced Embedded Security CAS vendors don’t want to service that market due high cost of servicing and low returns

“iCAS is the only advanced embedded security CAS platform operating in Phase 3 and 4 markets in a big way,” he averred.

Explaining the market dynamics, Dubey said that the foreign companies are providing CAS at $3-4. This goes up to $5-5.5 including middle ware and SMS + the AMC is 8-10% of the cost of these foreign CAS.

On the other hand, iCAS is available for Rs 35 or 50 cents including middle ware and SMS with three years servicing, he pointed out.

“There are things beyond our control like the cable TV operators want cheaper STBs, they are have existing relationships with foreign/old STB vendors and they want more people to test out iCAS before deploying it,” he stated.

Talking about the DD Free Dish opportunity, Dubey said iCAS has created infrastructure for DD to cater to 50 million subscribers for DD Free Dish MPEG 4 DTH services.

Velankani Group, the parent company of ByDesign, has also been empanelled as one of the STB original equipment manufacturer (OEM) to sell the iCAS MPEG4 STBs in the market. DD has selected 11 Indian STB OEMs for STB distribution in the retail market.

“Free Dish MPEG 4 roll-out got delayed otherwise iCAS deployment would have been even bigger. iCAS installation for DD Free Dish was completed in March 2017,” he stated.

He also noted that currently very few MPEG4 STBs have been deployed as the new content on MPEG4 is still not available. However, DD is working on this aspect to get the MPEG4 rollout moving.

Dubey also pointed out that DD has fixed the retail price of MPEG4 STB Kit to be under Rs 2000 including the STB, Dish, LNB, cable, installation cost, dealer and distributor margins and GST with 1 year warranty and a Bank Guarantee to ensure service as per defined standards by DD.

Private DTH operators, he noted, subsidise STB because they can earn through subscription. DD has no such revenue stream. “This is just a one-time investment for customers. They will get content for free. They will also get free servicing for 1 year,” he said.

DD STB OEMS will have common distributors as private DTH operators as per the industry practice.

“Every STB OEM will get iCAS for 50 cents for five years. It’s an even playing field as iCAS and entire software will be same for all OEMs,” Dubey said.

Once MPEG4 STB is rolled out, DD Free Dish subscriber base could touch 25-30 million.

Encryption will allow DD to track the user base. So far, no one has any clue about the actual numbers. With the help of SMS installed at DDs control room, it will get the exact count of Free Dish customers.

Velankani has its own manufacturing facility with three assembly lines. Each assembly line has the capacity to manufacture up to 3-4 lakh STBs per month. It is a state-of-the-art facility with automation and robots.

“We have invested Rs 6-7 crores on the Free Dish project so far,” Dubey noted.

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