The district will not be able to meet the March 31 deadline to digitise cable TV feed

Cable television operators in Coimbatore are hoping for some leniency from the Central Government as the district will not be able to meet the March 31 deadline to digitise the cable TV feed.

Only 15 per cent of the estimated 6.60 lakh connections have switched over from analogue to the digital service and much more time will be needed for the nearly 2,700 operators to change to the digital system, admits State president of the Arasu Cable TV Oliparapalargal Sangam N. Yuvaraj.

Four licensed DAS operators have already approached the analogue operators for the switchover. But the response is not at the desired pace. “This is despite the government issuing reminders in the form of scrolls on various channels,” he points out.

Mr. Yuvaraj hopes analog channels will not go blank at the stroke of midnight on March 31, but, at the same time, also suggests that a shock treatment (blanking out) can spur the operators into action.

Asked if poor subscriber response was one of the reasons, he says many have switched to direct-to-home TV as the quality of transmission had been poor.

“They did so because they did not want poor picture quality after buying LCD and LED TVs”, he explains.

“As many as 35 lakh DTH connections were sold in the State in the last one and a half years.”

Asked why the switchover cannot be done soon, he points out that there are two factors why it cannot happen at the expected pace – one, lack of set top boxes, and, two, absence of sufficient manpower.

The multi-system operators, who offer the feeds to the local cable operators (LCOs), do not have enough set-top boxes at their disposal to offer the same to LCOs to be passed on to consumers. And, even, if they had, it would not be possible to install the set-top boxes in a few days or even couple of weeks.

Mr. Yuvaraj claims that LCOs can install only a maximum of 10 connections a day as the boxes have to be linked to the control room, tuned, installed and then checked.

It is a time-consuming process.

If all the MSOs and LCOs were to start installing set-top boxes at 10 connections a day, imagine the time it would take for installing the boxes for all the 6.60 lakh connections.

At least for this reason, the government must extend the deadline, he says.

The MSOs say that instead of open campaign, they are in discreet talks with the operators, as they did not want to antagonise the Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation.

But the LCOs are also confused because the Corporation’s license to give analogue cable TV service ends by March 31.

An MSO says he is in the process of working out the revenue-sharing model with the LCOs for the free-to-air channels and pay channels. While the TRAI has said that it could be 33 per cent for the channel, 33 per cent for the MSOs and another 33 per cent for LCOs, they were still working on it. The MSO also says that he has got close to 30,000 set-top boxes to start with. Once the new regime is in place, he will procure more boxes within days.

But his biggest worry is the continuance of the Tamil Nadu Arasu Cable TV Corporation, as in Chennai. If that were to be the case, the MSOs will stand to lose heavily.

The LCOs will be reluctant to switchover and the customers will not see the point in switching over to a digital system for a marginally higher amount.

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