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Thursday, 11 September 2014 10:36

Road to Survival- LCO becomes MSO Cable Making Co-operatives

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Delay in completion of Phase III and IV has given the LCO an opportunity to become a DAS MSO himself and be a part of Digital India

Now, that the government has postponed the deadline for switching off analog transmission in the whole country, many cable operators are expressing their relief in carrying out mandatory digitization, which they feel is only benefiting large MSOs who, under some excuse or the other were trying to take over the control of their networks on the basis of a few ill conceived regulations. Knowing cable operators very well, I know they will become complacent, neglecting their business for the next one year and again start running around at the end of the year, getting panicky before the deadline.  I feel this is no time to relax, this is an excellent opportunity given by the government to all of us, to do our best to save our businesses. The way competitive technologies are developing, we may not get any other chance of remaining in this business. 

 A year is more than sufficient to implement the requirements of the digitalisation law and upgrade our networks for migration to full digital. We must remember that in the present scenario there are many jobs half done or not even commenced migrate to full digital network. We should be thankful to the large MSOs who through their greedy attitude and efforts to take over our last mile networks, have given us an experience of what kind of life a slave LCO will lead in the future, when market is completely in the hands of these monopolistic companies. Also we have experienced the nuances of installing a digital headend and operate the SMS and encryption system. Remember, we are already expert in handling the consumers and providing last mile services, an experience none of the large MSOs have. So discarding all the lethargy of a typical analog cable operator, we should immediately get on the job without wasting any time. 

To start with, you have two important tasks to accomplish with immediate effect, firstly to make co-operatives and register as MSO with the I&B Ministry and start the process of making your own headend and providing your own digital services. This will ensure that your business is in your control and you can serve your customers the way you have been doing for so many years. 

Secondly, you need to pursue the government as well as the regulator TRAI to review certain regulations and tariff orders that infringe on our fundamental rights to do business. Important regulations needing a review are Tariff Order (3 of 2012) and Interconnect Regulation (9 of 2012), both dated 30 April 2012 and Quality of Service Regulation (12 of 2012) dated 14 May 2012. 

How To become a DAS MSO.

Process of DAS MSO involves registration with the I&B Ministry giving details of our business in the prescribed form given as annexure to the Cable TV Rules 2012. The Registration may take 2 to 3 months that involves clearance of the company/ individual by Ministry of Home Affairs for security reasons. Complete procedure of registration is given on Ministry’s DAS website

 Ministry has started conducting open house meetings every Tuesday in the Ministry Office (see box for the Ministry Notice). Do not get entrapped by an agent. 

For e.g. for any pay program or encrypted program we need to deploy Encoders whereas if the program is FTA it can be taken fr0m IRD.

Thus it becomes very important for us to know that what all programs you want to run, they are encrypted or pay and on what satellites they available.

In case you dont provide the program details then we can provide you a general solution. For e.g 150 FTA program, 50 Encrypted program but this will not be precise. (i.e. it can out 220 programs or 170 programs also, depending upon the real time parameters of the programs)

We also want to know you want MPEG2 system or MPEG4 system. (We as MSO suggest MPEG2 because MPEG4 stb are not matured in Indian market and they are costly as well.

 DAS Implementation comprises of 6 most basic steps

1.MSO License (License)

2.Headend (Hardware)

3.Encryption and regulatory software (software)

4.STB (user devices)

5.Audit by Broadcasters and Government. 

6. Maintenance Services, regular updation as per TRAI amendments and Integration.

Other than this, there are various other things which an MSO can adopt to,increase his revenue and make his services more competitive  like:

•Hardware- HD platform, more and more no. of satellite channels and local video channels etc.

•Software - EPG system, VOD, Ad insertion, promotional software, interactive content etc.

•User devices - HD STBs, hybrid or android boxes for multiplatform and OTT services etc •Triple Play services with Broadband, e-governance etc. as part of National Broadband Plan in rural areas.

1.MSO Registration/ License 

Complete procedure for getting a registration with MIB is given on Ministry website for DAS, Documents required includes-

 i)DD of Rs 100000/- in favour of "Pay & Accounts officer Ministry of Information and Broadcasting" Payable at New Delhi

ii)Address Proof, Voter ID, Pan card of the Proprietor or company.

iii)Income Tax Return of the Proprietor/ company.

iv)Entertainment tax, service tax(in case applicable) certificate and return. (In case not  available apply and provide its receipt) 

v)Post Office registration certificate of cable operator.

vi)Networth certificate (can show all movable and immovable or other properties with you which you can use at the time of emergency)

vii) Audited Balance sheet of the Income tax returns.

viii)Channel Mapping

ix)Undertaking on a Rs 10 Stamp paper as specified.   

x)Performa Invoice of atleast 100 STBs and headend equipment for atleast 75 channels.

xi)Declaration letter that you have acquired engineering and back end support team to run the Digital Headend.  

2. Headend Installation

Ordering the Headend

There are many companies providing digital headends, both international and indigenous that may cost fr0m Rs 5 lakh to 5 crore depending on your need and budget. You need not have to install 500 channels as given in the regulations that the TDSAT has already set aside. You can start fr0m 200 channels and still provide adequate choice to your consumers. 

 You can also install only FTA Digital channels in your network if you don’t have enough demand for pay channels fr0m your customers. Thus, you can avoid BECIL’s audacity and highhandedness of ‘Pay’ Broadcasters. You don’t need to negotiate with broadcasters for the FTA channels. TRAI regulations allow basic package of 100 FTA channels to be provided to consumers at a subscription of Rs 100 and taxes. 

In many rural areas giving 100 channels may satisfy all subscribers but if need be you may provide more FTA channels either at your own expense or offer as A-la-Carte to the subscribers. 

If in your area, pay channel demand is not substantial you may offer a-la-carte channels fr0m broadcasters, you may negotiate cost per subscriber rate (CPS) based on Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO), thus you will be paying to the broadcasters as the per SMS report of your headend system. If you are in a city or area where there is a demand of all pay channels and in different languages, you may negotiate on the basis of bouquets with the pay broadcasters. 

You may choose to have MPEG2 system if you think for the next five years you may not have the need to upgrade to MPEG 4. Remember MPEG 2 technology has already been replaced by MPEG 4 but MPEG 4 equipment and STBs are more costly. You may even plan to use IPTV technology as all headends provide IP output. All over the world, operators are moving to IP networks as they are the future and help you compete with Telecom networks. Also, it will be easier to integrate your network with an ISP or telecom operator to provide Universal Services at a later stage. 

3. Encryption (CAS), SMS & Billing and middleware software

You require CAS, Middleware and SMS & Billing software. Some companies provide these software free if you buy their hardware as well. Before deciding on this, must ensure that it satisfies all requirements of TRAI and update support is given without any additional expense.   Also, there are CAS with smart card and without smart card. So better study the systems, evaluate and then make the decision to buy.

Middleware is a software residing in the STB that gives EPG and other presentation of content on TV screen to facilitate customers. Thus, depending on your budget, you select various features.

4. STB (Customer Premise Equipment)

There are many verities and manufacturers of MPEG2, MPEG4, HD, Android and other STBs. Most of the manufacturers are fr0m China and now we have many in India too. China makes STBs for the whole world. It is upto you to find a good quality. Better to avoid a cheap STB of poor quality. Remember all STBs must comply with BIS standards, so ensure that while making orders.

5. Audit by Broadcasters and BECIL

Pay broadcasters may audit your headend and CAS if you need their channels. So far Ministry has nominated only BECIL as an agency to audit and certify your headend. Till more agencies are nominated, BECIL’s monopoly will prevail. It is not mandatory to get BECIL certification done. All MSOs have not got their systems certified by BECIL. You may check the information on BECIL website If you invite BECIL to audit your headend and system, all broadcasters will acknowledge it but this is very costly (fee is 5 lakhs excluding other expenses). If you are not satisfied by BECIL’s work and its demand, you can complain to Ministry and use RTI too. 

6.Maintenance Services, regular updation as per TRAI amendments and Integration. 

Once the Headend is setup, you need to make categories or genres and make the numbering of channels as you wish them to appear to a customer. You must employ an experienced telecom/ broadcast engineer who can deal with day to day changes and do testing and analysis of the system at local end. Companies providing you the headend equipment should provide you all the initial installation support.

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