Cable operators and government officials on 5 April 07 in a joint meeting agreed mandatory extension of CAS to all areas of the three metros and adjoining areas including the satellite towns of these metros. Officials from TRAI included Mr. AK Sawhney, Mr. RK Arnold, Mr. RN Choubey, Mr. Arvind Kumar, Director (B) and Mr. Brijinder Kumar, Jt Secy. (B) represented by the I&B ministry. However, a formal notification in this regard is yet to be issued by the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry.
Completion of CAS implementation will provide consumers with two broad choices. CAS, if chosen by a viewer means reduction of one's bank balance by a minimum of Rs2000 for an STB. The other option is to pay a higher sum for a Direct to Home (DTH) connection such as Dish TV and Tata Sky.
During the meeting which was attended by more than 130 Multi System Operators (MSOs) and Local Cable Operators (LCOs) from the three metros, in addition to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry officials, it was also recommended that the CAS regime roll out in the three metros and its satellite towns be accomplished within six to nine months and the notification for all the zones must be issued in one go, so that stakehoders have enough time to prepare and implement it and the public is also aware much in advance.
TRAI chairman Nripendra Misra said that the meeting was to probe the issue. He said, “We will take a final decision after holding a couple of more meetings with MSOs, LCOs, broadcasters and consumer organizations”.
MSOs / LCOs Prepared
The ones without whom CAS can neither be initiated nor be completed i.e. MSOs and LCOs are learnt to be prepared for CAS implementation in the new areas. Even the stakeholders desire CAS extension in the non-notified zones. The MSOs suggest that there should be a notification for these areas, which specifies the timeframe within which digital cable will completely replace analogue cable. MSO's do not want any further delay in the CAS rollout as it would be a loss for them and other platforms like DTH and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) would lure away customers at the expense of the LCO.
“The government should issue a notification in advance as it will help the consumer to be prepared for CAS and also enable STB manufacturers and MSOs to have requisite hardware stocks in advance,” said Arvind Mohan, vice president of Wire and Wireless Ltd (formerly known as Siticable). Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) President Roop Sharma was of the view that 6-9 month period was the ideal time to extend CAS in the notified metros.
CAS implementation requires a lot of preparation. There is a need to manage the finances properly and also create consumer awareness as CAS roll out has no meaning if the customers are uninformed about it. Another requisite in CAS implementation is the need for a rental scheme for the STBs so that the customers who are unwilling to purchase it are able to do so by paying its monthly rent. Supply of Free to Air (FTA) channels by the MSOs and LCOs must be adequate. TRAI's order states that the operators need to provide the customers with atleast 30 FTA channels. Besides FTA channels there are pay channels as well. A-La-Carte offer by broadcasters on these channels is an important element as its absence will force the MSOs and LCOs to take all those channels they do not wish to take and pay for.
One of the most significant issues raised in the meet was that the National level MSOs should not be required to seek further registration for the other zones. The time table for Phase II needs to be fixed in consultation with the stake holders. In regard to the implementation of CAS, the cable operators and MSOs wish to launch CAS anywhere in India, tariff remaining the same for every area.
Ganesh Naidu, CODA, Mumbai stated that compared to the 5 lakh Cable homes in Mumbai in Zone I, there are as many as 14 lakh Cable homes in Zone II. For rolling out CAS completely the most important requirement is of the STBs. Rather they must be available in the open market.
Ravi Mansukhani of IndusInd Media supported the point of shortest timeframe to be set for CAS implementation. According to Ravi, a period of 3 months is enough for the old players. However, the new ones may take six months. Hathway's Milind Karnik kept the idea of rolling out CAS in a phased manner with a time period of 90 days enough for every zone.
A formal notification for CAS Roll Out in other zones is yet to be issued by the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry. Meanwhile at a meet on 5 April 07, MSOs have suggested that there should be a single notification for all the remaining zones specifying the timeframe within which digital cable with CAS will completely replace analogue cable in these zones.
Some issues raised at the convention talked about the posers of the existing system that need to be sort out. Nodal Officer, Chennai, Ambuj Sharma, Special Secretary Home said that CAS which is existing since 2003 has low penetration and there is lack of public awareness regarding the same. Penetration of CAS is as low as 10-12%. Sanjay Mohite, Deputy Commissioner Police, Nodal Officer in Mumbai pointed at the absence of a specific customer redressal system saying that they were unaware on how to solve problems of the consumers immediately. However, he mentioned that the four major MSOs were quick in sorting out the problems and 2.8 to 3 lakh STBs have already been installed in Mumbai.
An overall consensus of the meet was that CAS roll out should be carried in a phased manner for which a maximum of nine months were required. Dates for implementation of CAS in all cities must be specified well in advance.
Awareness about what all has happened till date in the CAS market can help in better understanding, the present situation of CAS. The start of CAS was seen as a declaration of a region for MSOs to operate CAS.Advertisements were published in the newspapers to create consciousness among the people about it.
For initiating CAS in an area, the MSOs required permission from the Ministry to begin with it. In the first phase the government approved 21 MSOs and six MSOs are still left. Currently CAS is operational throughout Chennai and in select zones of Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata.