To offer better audio quality and sharper picture to millions of its viewers, public broadcaster Doordarshan plans to go completely digital by 2017.

Officials in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry said a roadmap for making broadcasting operations completely digital is being planned and would be unveiled after discussions with industry stakeholders.

If the plans fall in place, public broadcaster Prasar Bharati would go completely digital by 2017. Serious efforts towards achieving this have already begun, as it is a priority area for I&B minister Ambika Soni, sources said.

The first step towards meeting this goal was the announcement of the headends in the sky (HITS) policy by the government late last year, which gives cable operators an option to go for digital transmission of channels.

Digital transmission enhances audio and picture quality and sooner the transformation process takes place, more beneficial it would be for the broadcasting sector in the country, official sources said. By going digital, Doordarshan can offer its viewers 16 times sharper image than is available currently under the analogue mode of transmission.

Ms. Soni has on several occasions emphasised that digitisation is a key thrust area for development because of the various advantages offered by digital mode.

She had said recently that in countries like the US, specific dates regarding complete transition to digital mode from analogue have been fixed. However, in India no such sunset date had been set and thus 2017 has been fixed as a target year for achieving digitisation.

Given the large number of television homes and DTH players in the country, Ministry sources say that a regulatory framework would also be needed for achieving the transition.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has already suggested a three-stage process for digitisation, wherein tier one cities would be covered by 2013, tier two cities by 2014 and tier three cities by 2017, they said.

For this, however, detailed discussions with stakeholders and a complete roadmap would be needed, preliminary work for which has started within the Ministry, the sources said.

Apart from this, Ministry officials said, rationalisation of tax and duty structure of cable services, manufacturing of set-top boxes and process of collecting bills are some of the aspects which would also be needed to be looked into.