Telecom regulator TRAI has forwarded its final recommendations on restructuring cable TV services to the ministry of information and broadcasting, designed to overhaul
cable TV industry to provide digital signals to viewers, aimed at providing planned and better services and growth.
Once implemented, the recommenations would enable broadband internet services to be accessible to all subscribers in the country, estimated at 76 million currently, leading up to the introduction of "triple-play services" with a single operator provides television, internet and telecom services to subscribers. India currently has 4.5 million broadband subscribers.
Looking for innovation and investments from within the country and overseas, the recommendations are in line with the consultation paper it had floated on restructuring of cable TV services as on 4 March, 2008.
TRAI has recommended a well-defined and supportive framework to restructure the cable industry, which at present suffers from limited technological capabilities, with practically no scope for upgradation of the current analog system to carry transmission signals.
It has given cable service providers five years to migrate to the digital format and provide signal strengths as prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards. This recommendation to ensure digitalisation of the cable TV industry will go a long way in revamping tranmission quality, that users have been complaining about.
Digitalisation would enable consumers to receive up to 300 channel feeds, up from the 40 ro 80 under the current analog format.
The regulator has recommended a separate licensing framework for Cable TV operators (LCOs) and multi system operators (MSOs), with separate entry fees for those providing services locally, at the state and national levels ranging between Rs10,000 and Rs1 lakh, respectively.
It has also granted recognition to Multi System Operators (MSOs), and mandated that they should be made to migrate from the analog to the digital format in five years. Till now there was no distinction between a local cable operator and an MSO.
While crediting the spectacular growth of Indian cable TV services in the past two decades to the entrepreneurial skills of the local operators, TRAI has pointed out to the various limitations the present analog cable TV transmission suffers from.
It has suggested broadening the scope of available cable TV network to provide value added services like broadband to help cable TV operators to improve their business.
Operators with more sophisticated technologies for providing more advanced services like direct to home (DTH), headend in the sky (HITS), internet protocol television (IPTV), which in the long run would pose competition to conventional cable TV.
It is now possible for service providers to offer broadband internet and cable television over an optical fibre network that would enable the larger service providers with better technology and resources like DTH to step in.
DTH broadcasting service, refers to distribution of multi channel TV programmes in Ku Band by using a satellite system by providing TV signals direct to subscribers' premises bypassing intermediaries like cable operators.
TRAI's aim is to spread network digitisation, increase addressability and encourage voluntary conditional access system (CAS). TRAI has also prescribed incentives to MSOs for introducing total digitised networks.
It has recommended that all cable operators must have a complaint redressal system in place and also provide detailed bills to their customers which should include subscription charges, service tax and entertainment tax. Besides, it added that all cable operators will be mandated to send their records to the I&B ministry and TRAI at such intervals as specified by the government.
TRAI has also asked the government to implement regulations so that Cable TV operators become eligible for seeking right of way (RoW) for laying fibre underground as well as overhead.