Set-top boxes to be mandatory from March 2012

Analog cable TV may soon be a thing of the past. All homes receiving television programmes via analog cable networks will need to switch to digital set-top boxes beginning March 2012, with the government approving complete digitisation of television transmission over a two-year period.

In a move that will benefit both consumers and the cable and satellite television industry, the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs (CCEA) has cleared the ordinance to amend Section 4A of the Cable TV Act, making way for digitising TV broadcast.

The cabinet agreed to send the proposal for an ordinance of the ministry to the president for consideration and approval.

Contingent on the approval, cable operators will have to abandon analog in the four metros.

Cities that have a population of one million will be covered by 31 March 2013. By 30 September 2014, all urban areas should be covered while the country will likely be covered by 31 December 2014.

Consumers currently have no choice of channels in analog cable. Usually, a single rate is charged to all customers and one package of 80-90 channels is offered. Digital cables have the capacity to carry up to 1,000 channels, and of better quality, albeit at a higher cost to consumers.