CQ: What according to you are the overall achievements of digitization?
V.J.: Keeping figures asides (which may show skewed results), one point to highlight is operators are more serious about this drive and trying to catch up with government expectations. We all are aware and accept that the drive from government is heavy on pockets of operators and there will be significant delta between expectations and reality. In summary, I feel digitization drive is still a work-in-progress subject.
CQ: Do you think we have come up to the expectations as far as upgrading of infrastructure is concerned?
V.J.: Regarding infrastructure, quality embraced by operators seems nominal, and it seems there is no standard followed and purchases seem adhoc. Many instances that I have come across, quality testing is sub-standard and lots of compromises happened.
CQ: Digitisation was done for analogue Cable TV networks. However, the MIB is asking cable subscribers to go for DTH services if they don’t get a digital cable signal. How fair is this?
V.J.: Well, it is difficult to take sides, because this is debatable. The government says after giving so much time that there is no genuine effort from operators to go for full digitalisation. Operators have their own point of view by condemning that there is no support in terms financial assistance or otherwise from the government in this process. From subscriber perspective, they have their own version of saying quality product is always difficult to get from the last mile. In the process of achieving overall objective, there will be some bloodshed, and I believe the government is using this option to force operators take digitalisation move more seriously. One more facet from the vendor perspective is many quality vendors exited from the market because of this endless roll-out, and there is a feeling in the market that most of the infrastructure that operators built is sub-standard from international quality perspective; some even called Indian market as dumping yard. To answer in one line – I think sometime one has to be tough to get things straight.
CQ: What are the major issues still pending in the process of digitization and what are the solutions?
V.J.: Quality is always a concern; it needs to be scanned more seriously and improvise to call this drive a success. One glaring issue, I have seen from various operators, they have no concern about security of their infrastructure; anything that is cheap is taken without a wink. Cost-effective and cheapness are two different aspects, when I say cheap, they are sub-standard.
CQ: There are millions of subscribers who do not have access to digital television services because of reasons like no digital MSO operates in the area, DTH operators not having sales support in the area, or subscribers not able to afford digital services which are two to three times costlier than analogue. What can be the solution to provide such consumers with television services? Should analogue continue in such area?
V.J.: Not a right comparison but let me quote – “Polio needs to be eradicated from all corner to have a polio-free nation.” Similarly, if the drive of digitalisation needs to take place, it should be complete and without preferences. Yes, there will be some pain but I see this as an opportunity for business units in those areas and I think a new drive in that perspective needs to be initiated. If DTH is the only option, then the government needs to make the package reachable and suitable to the viewing subscribers, but I do not think that is the case, when some changes in the infrastructure to complement existing infrastructure (like piggy riding on mobile networks to reach the kerb), this issue can be addressed easily.