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Shortage of STBs is slowing down digitization

May 10, 2017
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The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) has asked all MSOs/LCOs to switch-off analogue signals of cable television from 1st April 2017, as last date of Phase IV of cable TV digitization ended on March 31. The Ministry has also warned the defaulters of strict action. But there are pertinent issues faced by LCOs and the poor people in rural regions are finding it tough to invest in STB. As per the latest BARC Survey, TV penetration has increased by 18% making it to 184 million instead of 158 million in 2013. If we work on this figure, the ministry estimated achievement will come down to hardly 50% leaving about 45 million analogue households without any TV services after analogue signal was ordered to be switched off from April 1. To know the technical side of the story, Cable Quest correspondent Varun Sharma had a chat with Pankaj Krishna, Founder, Chrome Data Analytics & Media. Excerpts from the interview:

CQ: What according to you are the overall achievements of digitization?

P.K.: Currently, there are 500+ cities with active analog signals. Majority of these cities are in Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.  Urban India has attained around 90 per cent digitization, whereas in rural India there is still 22 per cent analog penetration. 

CQ: Do you think we have come up to the expectations as far as upgrading of infrastructure is concerned?

P.K.: In all India basis, the Set-Top-Box (STB) seeding has improved. DTH players are focusing on rural India while urban MSOs are penetrating the urban regions with the provision of high broadband services. Local MSOs and LCOs have also collaborated with major MSOs such as DEN, Hathway, GTPL, Siti, etc to achieve the target. 

CQ: What are the major issues still pending in the process of digitization and what are the solutions?

P.K.: In states like Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal, there seems to be a shortage of Set-Top-Boxes (STB), which is slowing down the process of digitization. In case of Tamil Nadu on the other hand, the market has always been sluggish towards taking up digitization. Besides, some of the interconnect agreements between MSOs and Broadcasters remain pending.

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?

P.K.: As per Chrome DM view, the continuation of analogue signals in such areas would be a regressive approach to the issue. The Subscribers in Non Cable areas should be encouraged to upgrade to DTH with service issues getting resolved and subscription cost offers for a price-sensitive consumer. There is already traction in the market towards that effect. 

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