More than 15 lakh households are yet to set up digital set-top boxes

Analogue cable television signals are slated to be turned off in the city from March 31, but more than 15 lakh households are yet to set up digital set-top boxes (STBs) to access digital signals.

This apart, the process of digitisation is shrouded in uncertainties, raising questions about the future of cable television industry, according to operators.

Providing STBs is the responsibility of multiple system operators (MSOs), but they do not have enough stock to meet the deadline, GHMC Cable Operators’ Association president L. Hari Goud said.

Lack of awareness among customers and their reluctance to switch over to the digital bandwagon are the other stumbling blocks, he added.

Poor families are a reluctant lot

Majority of households having cable TV connections are poor and are reluctant to shell out Rs. 1,500.

“Most of them are waiting to see the scenario unravelling after March 31 and then take a decision,” he said.

There is also confusion regarding the number of MSOs operating in the city, resulting in concerns over the compatibility of STBs with a particular MSO.

“The government should take a proactive role in reviewing the digitisation process. Neither authorities nor MSOs have conducted any review meeting till now,” Mr. Goud said. Owing to this, customers are being left at the receiving end.

According to the Cable TV Regulation Act, 1995, a customer should have the choice of selecting the channels that he prefers to watch or paying minimum amount to watch free-to-air channels. But even in metros, where the process of digitisation is complete, customers are being forced to take packages offered by MSOs irrespective of whether they watch all channels, he said.

To benefit customers

While there is a delay in the implementation, digitisation will be beneficial to customers, Sachin Tummala, CMD of Corpus Media Labs, said. Like mobile phones, which started by providing voice calls and later incorporated advanced features like sending SMS and accessing the Internet, STBs will revolutionise the cable industry.

“After the digitisation process, customers can enjoy better quality pictures, more number of channels and value-added services. Hence, it is a win-win situation for both customers and cable operators,” he added.

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