The Ministry for Information and Broadcasting issued advertisements in the three metros to end all speculations about the failure in implementing CAS by the year end. The advertisements listed the notified areas in Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi to be covered by CAS in the first phase of the implementation. It clearly stated that the viewers of cable TV in the mentioned areas will not be able to view pay channels without a Set Top Box (STB) from 31.12.2006.
The Government does not want to take any chance to cause failure of CAS like it happened the last time. They even reacted to a news item appearing in one of the national dailies stating that the free trial period has been extended by one month till 31 January 2007.
I&B Rebuts TOI News on CAS Deferment
It is to bring to your notice that the news items titled "CAS or DTH? Decide by Jan31" appearing on the front page and "No channel blackout"on page 5 in the The Times of India Dated 29.12.2006 is totally misleading and is baseless. It is categorically denied that any such decision as to open up a month long window after 31st December for consumers to make up their minds has been decided. It is also categorically denied that "No channel blackout" as reported is going to take place on 31s1 December 2006. No such affidavit as reported has been filed in the Delhi High Court as reported seeking transition time after 31.12.2006.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India , in a press release also declared that there is no proposal under consideration for postponement of CAS beyond the notified date, which is the date mandated by the High Court of Delhi. The release also said that steps relating to the implementation have already been taken by the government and that the subscribers should not delay in applying to the MSOs or cable operators of their area for set top box. The government has also approved a number of MSOs to ensure competition. The cable operators need to check whether these MSOs are ready for CAS transmission while signing inter connection agreement with them.Out of the 21 MSOs across the three cities, 10 MSOs have conducted the trials for testing out their digital systems under CAS, confirmed Nripendra Misra, TRAI chairman. “We want to be sure there are no glitches in implementation of CAS and the transition is smooth. The progress is satisfactory and let there be no doubt in the minds of stakeholders that CAS is going to be implemented on the due date,” he added.
As per the amended cable Rules and Notification issued by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, transmission of pay channels in unencrypted form in the CAS notified areas after December 31,2006 will be an offence.
The Mumbai Story: In Mumbai where 3.5 lakh households are to be covered under CAS the Multi System Operators (MSOs) say that they are ready with STBs and are getting good response from consumers. Hathway, a leading MSO in the city claims that they have already provided 70,000 households with STBs. According to Sanjay Mohite, (DCP), who is also the nodal officer nominated by the state government for the implementation of CAS, more than one lakh STBs have so far been distributed and MSOs have already started the process of conversion from analog to digital.
CAS will be implemented in the city as per Section 4-A of the Cable Network Regulation Act, said a government official. The cable operators, who were initially apprehensive are now in agreement.
“We were against CAS but now with TRAI having fixed the rate for pay channels at Rs5, we are in support of it,” said Ganesh Naidu, President of Cable Operator and Distributors Association (CODA). South Mumbai households would be able to experience CAS through WWIL’s (ex SitiCable) headend-in-the-sky (Hits) platform of delivering entertainment besides a host of value added services. WWIL ( Wire & Wireless India Ltd) is also trying to rope in many more Last Mile Operators (LMOs) in order to expand their network. Jagjit Singh Kohli, CEO, WWIL, said that 1,000 STBs are being installed per day. “We have signed up with 140 operators in South Mumbai.” said Kohli.
Ashok Mansukhani, executive vice president , corporate services, Incable Net said, “Between the two cities of Mumbai and Delhi we have already deployed around 20,000 digital STBs under rental or outright schemes.90 per cent of these are in the CAS areas.” He further added that InCable Net has stocked STBs in warehouses in Mumbai and Delhi. Also more STBs will be delivered by the end of next month.
With such positive reports about CAS and its implementation we, however, cannot ignore the confusion prevailing among some subscribers as well as the Cable Operators. A recent survey revealed that a large number of cable operators have yet to set up their systems to accept CAS. They are likely to join the existing CAS enabled networks.
Kolkata Scenario: Reports so far say the level of preparedness for the implementation of CAS is certainly not up to the mark. The consumers know about it only through the government advertisements which the newspapers had been carrying since the last one month. The MSOs engaged in the CAS roll out are Manthan Broadband, Cablecom, Indian Cablenet, Siticable, Shristi and Kolkata Cable and Broadband Pariseva.
Delhi still waiting: Till the writing of this article, news had poured in that in Delhi only 60,000 households in the notified area have so far applied for the new system as against an estimated four to five lakh TV households. TRAI is now desperately seeking help from the RWA to meet the Dec 31 deadline. It organised a meeting with the RWA of South Delhi, various consumer groups, Sanjeev Khirwar, the nodal officer for the implementation of CAS in the second week of December.
MSOs are hopeful that STB demand would pick up during the last week of the month. Roop Sharma, President of Cable Operators Federation of India said “ such is the dynamics of the business that cable operators can provide the STBs to all homes even on a 24 hour notice- that is one of the preconditions of the CAS license as well.”
Due to past experience (CAS was unsuccessfully introduced in 2003) subscribers in south Delhi are still in a dilemma. They want to wait and be sure about the capability of the service providers and the quality of CAS service.Moreover, as seen in Chennai, three years ago, low penetration of set - top - boxes is not abnormal. “People love anything given free. The moment you tell them they have to pay they think twice whether it is KBC, Saas bahu or Sa re ga ma,” said Roop Sharma.According to her there will be a wait and watch scenario in the beginning and sale of STBs will pick up by end of January 07. She also attributed low demand of STBs on the failure of some MSOs and independent operators in preparing themselves for implementing CAS. “These people were going to the courts to get the process delayed but they have not got any relief. It is good that the government this time is serious in implementation. In the long run this will prove beneficial for all,” she said.
MSOs in the capital are ready to air more than the prescribed free channels. According to the rules at least 30 FTA channels for a monthly fee of Rs77 have to be provided. “But we have upgraded that number of channels to 76 because we do not want the subscribers to miss out on their favourite channels”, said Vikki Choudhry of Home Cable. “The best part, which not many people have realized, is that the free channels will be beamed even without set-top box,” he added. Win Cable has their hoardings all over CAS areas advertising a basic package of around 50-60 channels.In Cable is doing a number of road shows in housing societies to promote their boxes.They are providing all 90 pay channels.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), held meeting with the Multi System Operators on December 13, to check if the infrastructure was in place. Four of the approved MSOs, were not fully prepared to provide pay channels in addressable mode on the specified date. The license of these MSOs have been suspended. The names and addresses of these MSOs are:
1.M/s Spectra Net Limited,
42, Okhla Industrial Estate, Phase-III
2.M/s Star Broadband Services (India) Pvt. Ltd.,
19/48, Malcha Marg Commercial Complex,
Chanakyapuri, New Delhi-110021
3.M/s Sanjay Cable Network Pvt. Ltd.,
K-45-B, Kalkaji, New Delhi-1100198
4.M/s Satellite Channels Pvt. Ltd.,
E-68, Lajpat Nagar-1st, New Delhi-110024
The cable operators associated with the above MSOshave been advised to approach other MSOs who are in a state of readiness so as not to miss the December 31 deadline, according to a TRAI press release.
The DTH Competition: Both the DTH operators ie Dish TV and Tata Sky have braced themselves up for the ensueing competition.With CAS and digital cable, cable networks became at par with them in providing quality and quantity of entertainment.The difference is in services and frills.Already many new value added services like interactive games, movies-on -demand, interactive news,etc.have been announced by them. Now the rate war has also started. Dish TV has planned to slash prices by 49 per cent from Rs 2,950 to Rs 1,500 which also include the installation prices. By doing so it will not only have an edge over its rival Tata Sky but also intends to compete with local cable operators.The third DTH provider, Doordarshan`s DD Direct airs only free - to - air channels. However, it was to increase its package from 33 channels to 50 but private channels have not shown any interest as they oppose the Rs1 crore yearly carriage fee to be given to Prasar Bharati.
Tata Sky has announced plans to deploy a door to door sales army to ward off competition from cable operators. “The response in Calcutta has been good. To expand our subscriber base, we have trained a group of young marketing professionals, in addition to our existing employees, to visit homes and offices,” said Vikram Mehra, head (consumer marketing) of Tata Sky. It offers 108 channels for Rs 300 per month, Interactive games, Cricket matches through multiple camera angles, movies for Rs75 each, 24 x 7 helpline in 11 languages, recharge vouchers, parental lock, installation by company engineers, on screen payment and due date information and seven-day programme list. Thus, the stage is set.
It seems strange as to why TRAI is allowing Sun TV to go FTA in Chennai and as ‘pay’ in other CAS notified areas and all over the country.SET Discovery India Private Limited has also declared NDTV 24X7 and NDTV profit as FTA in Chennai. CNN IBN has also been declared FTA in Chennai.This discrepancy may lead other channels too to go FTA if TRAI does not clarify as to why such a thing is being permitted.