MIB directs analogue signal switch-off in DAS IV areas; Arasu demands for continuity in TN

MUMBAI: With the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) insisting on the switch-off of analogue signals in Phase IV areas of digital addressable system (DAS), a sizeable population will be unable to enjoy television from 1 April, provided the cable TV networks strictly implement the directive.

According to MIB data until 14 March, in Phases III and IV areas of DAS, 64.4 million STBs, excluding Tamil Nadu, had been seeded so far, which meant 67% of the total requirement. Thus, 33% STB seeding was still left to be done, as on 14 March. The latest STB seeding update until 31 March 2017, however, is not available.

With the deadline for the final phase of DAS expiring tonight, the MIB has instructed all multi-system operators (MSOs), local cable operators (LCOs) and broadcasters to ensure that analogue signals are not transmitted after the deadline ends.

The MIB has warned of action against broadcasters, MSOs and LCOs if they fail to stop analogue signals. “All the broadcasters, multi-system operators and local cable operators are hereby instructed to ensure that no analogue signals are transmitted over the cable networks in Phase IV areas after 31.03.2017, failing which action would be taken against the defaulters as per the provisions in the Cable TV Act/ Rules,” the MIB said in a circular.

Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation (TACTV) has issued a letter to all broadcasters stating that they cannot switch off analogue signals since the implementation of DAS in Chennai and Tamil Nadu is pending before the Madras High Court.

It has also stated that Madras HC has retrained TRAI from disconnecting analogue signals to TACTV and the same is still in force.

Further, it has said that the order allows TACTV to receive signals in analogue as well as digital mode until the MIB takes a call on TACTV’s DAS licence application.

The Andhra Pradesh government wants the deadline for DAS to extend till December. Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has written a letter to the Centre to this effect, seeking more time as the state government is carrying out work on its fibre grid project which would provide internet and cable TV infrastructure. The project is expected to be completed by December.

Andhra Pradesh has a backlog of 55% STBs to be seeded, according to a report in Deccan Chronicle. Nearly 45 lakh TV sets in AP would go blank from 1 April. In Telangana, nearly 60% of TV sets would go blank from 1 April as the deadline for DAS ends. Only 40% amounting to 26,40,000 connections have STBs required for availing services under Cable TV digitisation. Around 39.60 lakh STBs are still to be deployed and could face blockade of cable TV services.

It may be recalled that in December last year the MIB had extended the deadline for Phase IV to 31 March 2017. Likewise, the MSOs/LCOs in Phase III areas were given extra time until 31 January to switchover to digital.

This was the second extension of deadline by the MIB. Earlier, DAS Phase III and IV deadlines were extended to 31 December 2015 and 2016 respectively. The original deadline for the last two phases was 30 September 2014 and 31 December 2014 respectively.

21st Task Force meeting

The MIB had conducted the 21st Task Force meeting on DAS Phases III and IV implementation on 14 March 2017 in the presence of additional secretary Jayashree Mukherjee, advisor (DAS) Yogendra Pal, deputy secretary (DAS) Shanker Lal and undersecretary (DAS) Anil Kumar.

During the meeting, advisor (DAS) had informed that, as per the data provided by the registered operators in the MIS, in Phases III and IV areas 64.4 million STBs, excluding Tamil Nadu, had been seeded so far, which meant 67% of the total requirement. Thus, 33% of STB seeding was still left to be done, as on 14 March.

Siti Networks COO (strategy) Anil Malhotra had stated that they were facing some problems with regard to carrying of signals as the telecom bandwidth available in remote Phase IV areas was poorly served and could only be utilised by one or two MSOs, affecting quality of service.

Representatives of national MSOs had raised the issue of continuance of analogue signals in some areas, particularly in Telangana and suggested that all broadcasters should completely discontinue analogue signals.

On this aspect, the IBF representative said that the federation had already issued circulars and notices to all members to switch off analogue signals in Phase III areas.

The stakeholders also informed that they had enough stock of set-top boxes (STBs) to be seeded in Phase IV areas.

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