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HomeArticlesCable TVCable TV Hardware Aiming For The Future
Sunday, 14 December 1997 00:00

Cable TV Hardware Aiming For The Future

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Born in 1989-90, Cable TV Industry had not expected the amazing growth which happened the very following year. The mushrooming of cable TV networks in 1989 was only with the SMATV type equipment using ordinary TV boosters and RG 8/ LCG 21 cables for wiring up cable TV households. There were very few indigenous manufacturers in the field. The cause of this restricted growth in the pre-cable TV era was simple: the market was restricted to hotels and high-rise apartments that too in the metropolis. All the modulators were based on VCR modules. The cable operator had a low profile and his network used to cany at the most 100-200 subscribers, two or three channels. And, suddenly there came the boom in the industry due to the Gulf War that was broadcast live on CNN. People from every walk of life lined up in five star hotels to watch the “missiles fired “ till the cable TV operators installed dish antennas and gave them the world in their bedroom.

The number of channels available to Indian viewers increased several fold in the next two years and the situation in the market was beyond the control of the government. Demand in the market was so 

 large that every one in the electronics business got in to manufacture of CATV related goods. Before the boom there were giants like Shyam and MCE dominating the market but later it was taken over by the small-scale industry that brought a crash in prices further escalating the boom.

In the mean time the government was busy in liberalising the economy keeping up with the globalisation caused by the influx of information. Riding the wave of liberalization and globalisation a number of multinational hardware manufacturers entered the Indian satellite and broadcast market. Finding the market potency worth their total business elsewhere few of them made joint ventures with Indian giants for production from Indian land too.

Caring the needs of the network to have a smooth-line control, Government promulgated the Cable TV Networks (Regulations) Act 1995 and legalised the industry. These regulations were meant to guard the interest of the industry as well as the viewers laying down restrictions on programme content and transmission standards.

Bureau of Indian Standards was asked to lay down the standards for cabled distribution systems and it was made mandatory for all networks to follow these standards with in three years of their publication.

Most of the manufacturing activity concentrated in Delhi and Bombay with some spill over in Madras, Hyderabad, Ahmedbad and Bangalore. Delhi still dominates the manufacturing activity as all the big manufacturers existed here and it has India largest electronic distribution market, “The Lajpat Rai Market” .All those who were in the business of manufacturing electric cables, started making co-axial cable to meet the enormous demand. Bombay dominated the imported equipment market that came though legal and illegal routes and has some of the largest dealers in the Country.

Grey Market dominated early years

Until 1992 the Indian CATV industry depended mostly on smuggled components for the manufacture of various equipment. The prices of equipment depended on the availability of smuggled parts such as ICs, tuners etc. In those days a satellite receiver costed anywhere between Rs 10,000 to Rs.25,000 While a 12 feet dish antenna used to cost anything between Rs. 25,000 and Rs.60,000, Albeit in the early years the prices had gone down, but quality of products was still at large. The criterion of purchase used to be prices and not quality. With the domestic industry at boom the prices of satellite receivers had come down to even Rs 2,000.

Every one was interested in low priced versions.

/Keeping up with Times

With legalization of Cable TV networks vide Cable TV Networks (Regulations) Act 1995, the industry was divided into three segments. The first group (even today) is led by small but enthusiastic entrepreneurs with medium size networks who used best of the indigenous equipment. The second group comprises of big business houses (Siti Cable, R P G, Hindujas etc) who believed in imported equipment and the third group has very small operators who patronise the low cost products.

With the increase in channels, new technologies were introduced by the manufacturers. Amplifiers with power pass facility and 450 to 550 MHz capability are in common use now. Models with AGC, reverse path facility and with Hybrid technology are with in the affordable range. Modulators having SAW filters and with international specifications are available everywhere. Large cable manufacturers like Deltron and Finolex have also entered the field with quality cables. There are more than a dozen manufacturers of fiber optic cables gearing up for the future demands.

The Future is Bright

Although pay channels have not become the major source of revenue yet, we have a large subscription market to tap. There is still a gap of 40 million TV households yet to be cabled. A 30% growth in the industry every year projects a bright future. Small operators are consolidating their networks with speed. In the urban areas, 450 MHz networks are the rule where as the rural market is still lagging behind.

In 1998, we expect another boom of Pay Channels and addressable networks. Addressable market is too large. It may have a slow start, as the equipment is not available as yet. However, with five to six MI\ICs entering the market sufficient equipment may be available at affordable price, metropolitan cities will be the first ones to experience this change. All large networks including those owned by the MSOs are ready to upgrade to addressable systems. Even the Telecom companies who possess the basic telephony rights and have the permission to lay fiber optic cables are now planning cable TV distribution expecting an open tender system of allocating rights for cabled distribution in the telecom- circles as given in the Broadcasting Bill. Essar Telecom in Punjab have tied up with Motorola for the purpose.

Not only addressable systems but even super networks using cable modems are likely to make a beginning in the near future. Growth potential is large enough to accommodate every one. Considering the present statistics where industry growth has been beyond the expectations of the market the hardware industry prospects are very promising. 


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