Cable operators granted grace period for switch to digital technology news
03 April 2013

With about one-fourth of 1.6 crore households missing the 1 April deadline for the conversion of all cable TV signals to digital mode in 38 cities across India, the information & broadcasting ministry today gave some relief to cable operators caught on the wrong foot.

While the ministry is firm on not extending the deadline per se, it said cable operators (multi-system operators or MSOs, as they are called) would be granted a short transition period for switchover to set-top boxes (STBs) depending on local conditions.

This comes after many MSOs complained about the non-availability of enough STBs, which are almost all imported from China. The transition period will vary from city to city.

"In order to not create inconvenience for the people, we are giving a transition time of 10 to 15 days depending on the ground-level situation," I&B secretary Uday Kumar Varma said.

He added that the ministry has decided to look at the ''bigger picture'' and be ''prudent'' rather than ''mechanical''.

Officials said the MSOs and broadcasters will be permitted to switch off the signals in a phased manner depending on the situation in various cities. Officials said that there is a huge diversity in the ground level situation in various cities which the ministry would keep in mind while enforcing cable blackouts.

As per the data with the ministry, seven of the 38 cities involved - Ludhiana, Hyderabad, Faridabad, Allahabad, Amritsar, Chandigarh and Jodhpur - have reported 100 per cent digitisation, while three others - Thane, Meerut and Jaipur - have reported figures of over 90 per cent.

On the other hand, up to Monday Vishakhapatnam, which has over 5 lakh TV sets, reported the lowest conversion figures of 12.18 per cent. Vizag has already registered an official protest against the digitalisation move, saying the availability of set-top boxes is far from enough to meet the demand.

Other cities like Srinagar (20 per cent), Coimbatore (28.89 per cent), Jabalpur (34.87 per cent), and Kalyan-Dombivli (38.59 per cent) were also lagging.

I&B officials said that they were coordinating with nodal officers in states to decide on the timing and manner of switch-off of analogue signals, which will result in blank TV screens for TV sets lacking STBs.

The process follows a law passed in Parliament at the end of 2011 making digitisation of cable television mandatory by 2014-end. Phase I was limited to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata; the second phase covers 38 smaller cities and towns.

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Cable operators granted grace period for switch to digital technology