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Cable TV Digitization: Everything you need to know
For most of those living in the metros – Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai, the way you watch (and pay) for television will change considerably from 1st July 2012. The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act comes into effect, and all analog cable TV signals will be switched off and the digital signals will replace them. In effect, just like Direct To Home (DTH) and existing Digital Cable services, you will need a set top box to receive the digital signals.
With a clear set of guidelines now emerging from the Broadcast Regulator, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), we clear the picture for you.
What are the upgrade timelines?
The analog signals will switch off in the metro cities on the midnight of 30st June 2012. There will be two more phases of rollout, which will cover the entire country by 31st December 2012.
But what does this mean for the consumer?
Quite a lot actually - some things are good and one slightly bad!
First off, the number of channels that you get increases massively. On the current analog system, technically about 200 channels can be broadcast. However, in the real world scenario keeping issues like quality of wiring, signal drops due to distance etc., usually you get 90 – 100 channels that are watchable. On a digital network, the operator will be able to offer anywhere between 400 channels to 700 channels.
Secondly, the picture quality will see a huge improvement. Gone will be the days when fuzzy picture with all sorts of vertical and horizontal disturbance running across the screen will be tolerated. It is still too early to say if it will be as good as the quality DTH offers, but on a technical basis, that should ideally be the case. Here also, the quality of hardware implemented will have some bearing.
Third is the ability to tailor the channel package more to your needs. All channels will be available on an ala-carte basis, meaning you can pick up channels individually as well. Also, unlike the current scenario with cable television, you will have the choice of picking channels bouquets – something that DTH does.
Fourth and very critically, cable operators will be able to offer High Definition channels to subscribers, something they couldn’t do at the moment, unless you were using Hathway’s Digital service, for example. This will help them target the “premium segment” customers, which was the advantage DTH had till now.
The caveat here is – you will need to buy a set top box from your cable service provider to continue using the service. This will cost anywhere between Rs 700 and Rs 2000, and will be offered with the option of complete up-front payment or part payment and part EMIs. Without this box, you will not be able to watch television, not even free to air channels (FTA). This could have an impact on the number of people who may actually upgrade their cable television connection, or simply shift to a DTH service, since both will incur a relatively similar hardware.
“Digitization of cable network will hugely benefit the entire ecosystem consisting of the government, broadcasters and consumers. For consumers, this translates into wider choice of TV channels, better quality of transmission, increased value added services and paying for what they view. For the government, greater customer declaration will lead to better tax compliance and tax revenues. Lastly, broadcasters will enjoy a reduced dependence on advertising revenues with subscription based services as well as a lowering of carriage fees”, says Shashi Arora, CEO - DTH & Media, Bharti Airtel.
TRAI recommendation: To begin with TRAI has mandated that all Multi Service Operators (MSOs) carry a minimum of 200 channels from the beginning. This number has to be bumped up to 500 channels by 2013. Also, subscribers will have to be offered 100 free-to-air channels as a basic pack – Basic Service Tier, if they wish to subscribe to that, at a minimum of Rs 100, carrying all 18 Doordarshan channels and five channels of each genre - news, sports, infotainment, music, lifestyle, movies and general entertainment. Also, TRAI states that a set top box should cost Rs 1500, with the customer paying Rs 850 up front, and the rest in installments. There will be a 1-year warranty on the hardware.
Visit page two to read more about just what Cable TV Digitization means for you...
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