Analogue cable television will become obsolete in India in three years time, with the government deciding to promulgate an ordinance to make the digitalisation of cable services mandatory by 2014.

On Thursday, the Union Cabinet approved the Information and Broadcasting Ministry’s proposal to promulgate the Digitalisation of Analogue Cable Systems Ordinance.

"The Cabinet has sent the proposal to the President. I cannot comment anymore on it as it is now being considered by the President," I&B Minister Ambika Soni told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.

The shift would mean that all customers must have a set top box whether they want to receive free-to-air or pay channels. They will be able to watch high quality channels of their choice on an a la carte basis, and are likely to have access to internet and telephone through the same digital cable. Broadcasters may be able to generate more revenue directly from subscribers, and thus reduce their dependence on TRPs and advertisers.

The ordinance aims at complete digitalisation of cable television in the four metros by March 31, 2012. The next target will be cities with over 10 lakh population. By the end of 2014, the entire country is expected to have phased out analogue cable TV.

India is thus becoming part of a global transition towards digitalisation. While the U.S. completed its shift in 2009, China has given itself a deadline of 2015 to phase out anologue transmission.

The government is following through on the recommendations made by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India in August 2010. "The capacity crunch and the non-addressable nature of analogue cable TV systems is coming in the way of orderly growth of the cable TV sector in India," said TRAI.

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