Consumer organisations complain that cable operators have doubled its cost

As the March 31 deadline to go digital draws near, local cable television operators in Bangalore and Mysore are not only drawing the attention of subscribers to it, but are also believed to have increased the price of set-top box (STB).

Consumer organisations complain that neighbourhood cable operators have almost doubled the cost of STB — from around Rs. 750 to Rs. 1,500.

In the event of the subscribers’ failure to procure a STB by the deadline, the TV sets catered by cable operators will go blank as broadcasters have been directed by the government to disconnect analogue transmission.

Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai migrated from analogue to digital mode in November 2012 following a directive from the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.

Subsequently, cable television broadcast in 38 other cities across the country, including Bangalore and Mysore, will go digital by March 31, according to the Ministry’s notification.

“The price of an STB has almost doubled ever since the authorities announced mandatory digitisation of cable television. What was available for Rs. 700 to Rs. 800 is now more than Rs. 1,500,” complained Somashekar S.V. of Grahak Shakti, a consumer organisation.

“We have received several complaints and are planning to take it up with the authorities. After having set a deadline, the authorities should also have brought in a price regulatory mechanism. The customers are being blackmailed,” he said.

A cable operator from Fraser Town here told The Hindu that the cost of the STB he was providing customers was Rs. 1,500.

“Not only will the quality of reception be good, the customer can watch as many 200 channels instead of existing 70 channels at the same monthly subscription,” he said.

However, the multiple system operator (MSO), under whose purview the cable operator comes, told this correspondent that their STB, given to operators for distribution among customers, was priced Rs. 1,000.

No monitoring

“However, we are not monitoring the price at which the cable operators sell them,” said a senior official of MPlex, an MSO. When told about the consumer organisation’s complaint, he said the STB was priced Rs. 700 about two years ago. But, subscribers can also purchase the STBs directly from MSOs.

Meanwhile, the Karnataka State Cable TV Operators’ Association president V.S. Patrick Raju denied operators had upped the price of STB. “On the contrary, they would discount price in view of the competition from rival cable operators,” he said.

The association has estimated that there may be around 30 lakh TV in Bangalore out of which about five lakh were either Direct-To-Home (DTH) subscribers like Tata Sky, Dish, AirTel etc., or had already purchased the STBs from operators.

“There could be around 25 lakh cable TV connections in Bangalore that were yet to get STBs,” he said.

There were around 10 MSOs in Bangalore catering to more than a 1,000 neighbourhood cable operators.

Spokespersons for MPlex and IN Cable said their companies had placed orders for six lakh STBs each to cater to Bangalore.

‘No fresh circular’

However, Adviser to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, Karnataka and Kerala, Sibichen Mathew said there was no fresh circular on the deadline for the 38 cities, including Bangalore and Mysore.

“There is no fresh update on the matter,” he added.

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