Digitisation Phase-III has just ended on 31st January with government’s claim of almost 100 per cent STB seeding. Now only the 4th and final Phase comprising of rest of India, mostly rural, is left. It is expected to have 66 million connections including about 15 million terrestrial connections and 51 million analog cable TV connections to be digitised. Apart from this, about 20 million analogue connections are pending to be digitized from the earlier three phases due to court cases or any other reason. It may be recollected that many far flung areas of Phase- III where it was difficult to connect them with MSO networks in the given time, were also included in the fourth phase.
Today, most of the public funded terrestrial broadcasts in the developed world have become digital. The benefits of digital terrestrial broadcasting over analogue are numerous such as better quality picture and sound, high quality of TV reception, efficient use of frequency spectrum (one DTT transmitter can broadcast multiple TV channels while in analogue, one transmitter broadcasts only one channel), availability of TV channels on mobile phones and other hand-held devices while roaming with no internet connection, and a combination of rich bouquet of SDTV, HDTV, UHTV, mobile TV channels, radio service and other value added services (VAS).
Demonitisation that started on 8th November last year to end corruption, curb fake currency and check terror funding has been redesigned to achieve a cashless society, starting from less-cash, as often said by FM Mr. Arun Jaitley. This has led to sudden and rapid popularity of the digital tools for instant money payment and receipt. Not only private sector but also the government has introduced apps like BHIM to make the idea of a cashless society a reality. Now, people can make digital transactions from a simple mobile based system to the more complicated solutions of net banking, e-wallets, Aadhar based technologies, among others. We are giving a summary of these existing methods for readers to adopt:
The Ministry on 27 January permitted all registered MSOs to spread their digital networks pan India irrespective of the area for which they have been licensed. This is nothing but a last bit effort by MIB to achieve success in digitization in Phase-III by 31st January and Phase-IV by 31st March respectively. However, it may be impossible to get the results. Phase III has already been closed by the MIB on 31 January directing all broadcasters and MSOs to switch off analogue signals. A press release was issued on 25 January to this effect.
The Supreme Court on 17th January asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to notify its draft tariff order and interconnection regulations only if it has a strong reason to do so. Even if TRAI decides to notify the draft tariff order and regulation due to strong reasons, it has to place the draft before the Supreme Court to satisfy the issue of jurisdiction, the bench of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Rohinton Fali Nariman said in an order.
As the country moves rapidly towards a digital economy, the regulator TRAI has endeavoured to make the digital infrastructure affordable to the poorest of the poor, so that 'Digital India' dream may be achieved soon. Consequently the Authority has given its recommendations “On Encouraging Data usage in Rural Areas through Provisioning of Free Data.”
In spite of the fact that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting had managed to get all DAS Phase-III extension cases dismissed after getting them to Delhi High Court, it could not ensure completion of the process in time, by 31 December.
This is the last month to complete digitisation in the whole country but the question is, who will do it? There are a total of 1033 Registered MSOs with 30 getting provisional registration in October, as reported by the Ministry last month. Analogue signals are expected to be switched off on 01 January 2017.
Finally the Phase III of Digitisation is over. On 7th December, the Delhi High Court today dismissed multiple petitions dealing with the extension for the deadline of Phase III beyond December 2015. The Court has made it easy for the I & B Ministry to officially declare the PHASE three as completed. As a result all analogue signals in Phase III areas will be ordered to be switched off and all subscribers will have to buy digital STBs costing from Rs 1500 to Rs 2500 to receive digital encrypted channels.
A month from now, MIB will declare all cable TV networks digital as the deadline of the last phase of digitization will end on 31 December. It is a different matter that it gets very discouraging ground reports given during the Task Force Meetings held in the Ministry every month to monitor the progress of Digitisation.
Although, Delhi High Court has started hearing the DAS Deadline related cases transferred from other state high courts on the directions of the Supreme Court, most of the cases may get dismissed giving no relief to the MSOs of Phase III.
The TRAI consultation paper on Infrastructure sharing in Broadcasting TV Distribution sector has been issued at a time when it is needed the most. This paper brings an opportunity for the industry to think together and cooperate at all levels to the welfare of all the stake holders and provide the best service, choice at an economical manner to the consumer. With digitisation, great amount of expenses are being incurred by every stake holder in the distribution networks. Sharing of infrastructure can really help to ease the situation reducing the Capex to a great extent.
Just after three months on 31st December 2016 our Government will declare the great job of Mandatory Digitisation completed successfully. The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will issue directions to the broadcasters to switch off all their analogue decoders, cutting off the signal supply to television sets in millions of poor households of Phase III & IV who cannot afford a DTH connection and where cable operator does not have access to digital signal because either MSOs do not have any existing infrastructure there or hesitate to enter as economically not viable.
Cable TV tariff including pay TV rates have gone sky high after TRAI allowed 27.5% inflation linked hike since April 2014 implemented in two installments. Rs. 8000 crores of excess subscription has been collected from pay TV consumers till date which must be refunded, says Vikki Choudhry.
The Wi-Fi broadband service of railway know as RailWire is being executed by RailTel corporation of India Limited (RailTel) which is a Government of India undertaking under the Ministry of Railways. Indian railways have a network of 62,800 kms of railway tracks passing through 7000 stations across the country. The state of the art network enables point and click provisioning of the bandwidth from anywhere to anywhere in the country. The network has been designed in such a way that full redundancy is available for bandwidth between any two points. The complete network is managed by centralized network management system located at New Delhi with back up at Mumbai and Secundarabad.
Digitisation of cable TV has lead to a massive increase in consumers being served with only digital television signals. As per the government plan, all television subscribers in India will receive digital signals by end of 2016. Unfortunately, while mandating this transformation, Government forgot that it would lose whatever little viewership is left for Doordarshan terrestrial service to the private cable TV operators and DTH operators because Doordarshan is not in the digitisation plan. Not only government will lose the ad revenue of Doordarshan channels, it will be deprived of one of the largest state promoted television network in the world, further increasing distance between the government and the people of the Nation.
Television has become a powerful medium for the delivery of information and entertainment. TV broadcasting in the country commenced in 1959 with the airing of free-to-air terrestrial TV channels by Doordarshan. A large number of households depend completely on the FTA terrestrial broadcasting TV services being provided by the public broadcaster.
As announced in the 16th Task force meeting, MIB is ready to file an SLP and argue to get all cases for DAS extension quashed by the Delhi High Court. IBF and MSOs ready to support MIB in this fight against small MSOs who are finding difficulty in procuring STBs and arranging content from Broadcasters.
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