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News |  04 Feb 2011 15:43 |  By RnMTeam

Government says Digitization by March 2015, sends recommendation to TRAI

NEW DELHI: The Government has set a deadline of 31st March 2015 for shift from analogue to digital systems, rejecting the recommendation of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India for setting 31st December 2013 as the sunset hour for analogue transmission.

The Government has sent its revised proposal to TRAI for its comments before putting it up before the union cabinet for approval.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry has accepted the recommendation of TRAI for completing digitization in four phases, though the deadlines have been altered.

The four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai have to shift to digital addressability by 31st March 2012 
Thirty-five cities with population of more than one million such as Patna, Chandigarh, Pune and Bangalore will be covered in Phase II by 31st March 2013 

All urban areas are expected to be digitized by 30th November 2014, and the rest of the country by the sunset date of 31st March 2015.

As digitization is expected to be done through addressable digital set top boxes, there may not be need for consumers to change their television sets.

According to official sources, digital cable TV will ensure better picture quality and services, choice of channels and interactive services. The industry will benefit as the move is expected to bring greater transparency in subscriber base and reduction in carriage fees.

Cable Operators Federation of India President Roop Sharma told that the Federation has always maintained that there would be no reason for change of TV sets but this propaganda had been propagated by some vested interests. Hailing the government's decision as a step in the right direction, she said it would end allegations by broadcasters that cable operators suppressing actual subscriber base.

At the same time, she did not see the logic in delaying the digitization beyond the deadline set by TRAI.

All India Aavishkaar Dish Antennae Sangh President A K Rastogi welcomed the move saying this would bring transparency. He said the new dates set by the Ministry would give the cable operators greater time to educate the viewers towards the need to change their STBs and also the benefit of digitization. The allegations of cable operators not revealing their actual subscriber base would also disappear.

Vikki Choudhary of Home Cable Network said it was unfortunate that the Government had unnecessarily delayed its decision on the TRAI recommendations. However, he welcomed the decision as he said that digitization would lead to compression and the ability to add more channel capacity. He said the STB prices had already fallen between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 and the charges by the cable operators and multi-system operators were unlikely to rise while providing better quality picture and additional channels 

Even cable operators would be able to help viewers choose channels of their choice and pay only for those which they watch. They would also have a choice of interactive services like those offered under direct-to-home like video on demand, personal video recording, video gaming, music, tele-shopping, electronic programme guide and broadband.

Earlier in August last year, the Ministry said it expected to complete digitization in Doordarshan and All India Radio by 2017.

In the present scheme, under the 11th Plan with an amount of Rs 15.28 billion – Rs 6.2 billion for Doordarshan and Rs 9.08 billion for All India is being spent on various projects.

As far as Doordarshan is concerned, the programme involves 40 digital transmitters and full digitization of 39 studios in 31 states and union territories 

All India Radio has undertaken replacement ad digitalization of 70 MW transmitters, 34 old FM transmitters, setting up of 130 new digital compatible FM Transmitters, nine short wave transmitters and 98 studio centers in 34 states and union territories.

TRAI in its recommendations on Implementation of Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems in India said that Phase I covering the four Metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai will be completed by 31st March 2011. Phase II will cover all the cities having population of over one million by 31st December 2011. The third phase will cover all the other urban areas (municipal corporations/municipalities) across the county by 31st December 2012 and the rest of India will be covered by 31st December 2013 in the fourth phase.

TRAI recommended that all service providers who have set up a digital addressable distribution network before the sunset date will be eligible for income tax holiday from 1st April 2011 (or the date of setting up of the network whichever is later) till 31st March.2019.

It said that the basic custom duty should be reduced to zero for all digital head end equipments and Set Top Boxes (STBs) for next 3 years; MSOs/LCOs should be given the Right of Way (RoW) permission to lay optical fibre/Cable on non-exclusive basis and MSOs/LCOs to be licensed. The Taxes/levies on the broadcasting distribution sector should be rationalized and education programmes should be taken up to educate the stakeholders about the benefits of digital addressable cable TV systems.