Jaldi 5 with Ashok Mansukhani: To achieve 100% digitization, govt must be a facilitator, not a schoolmaster

25 Sep,2012

Earlier this month, the government came up with a status report stating that 68 per cent of  the TV households in the four metros were digitized, a figure that was disputed by head of the Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI) Roop Sharma when we interviewed her yesterday (http://www.mxmindia.com/2012/09/jaldi-5-with-roop-sharma-govt-must-be-transparent-with-consumers-on-digitization/).

We asked the very same questions to Ashok Mansukhani, President, MSO  Alliance about on-ground reality of digitization.


We have a little over a month to go for digitization in the four metros. If the government estimates of last week were to be believed, by now over  70 per cent of Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai would be digitized. Is that the case?

The information is the same as that of the government. However, 68 percent is not the national figure. It varies from city to city. With four weeks to go for the first phase of digitization, the question is about the rest of 30 per cent homes. Of course, it is not insurmountable. Lack of publicity from broadcasters is a problem. Then, there is no joint selling effort from  broadcaster and MSOs. The packages are yet to be announced. That is when the customers will begin to think of switching to digitization. Right now, they think DTH and cable is different.


Are the lower income groups in these cities buying set-top boxes?

The slums in Mumbai and Delhi sure have a television. But how do they know that from October 31 midnight, the analogue signals will stop? The digitization message says ‘box nahi to, TV bhool jaao’. One has to remember that digitization is a means to enable customer, not a retribution.


The lower strata homes are being made used to use a set-top box and a remote. They have been told, ‘you see it, we will come and collect it later.’ Now this later will happen only when the packages are announced. The packages, however, have to be communicated door-to-door.


There is a worry that there will be some piracy in the form of pilferage of signals after November 1.

This is a rubbish claim that I have been hearing since long. The pilferage happens only when the broadcaster keeps his decoder ‘on’. Once that is switched off, there is no way that pilferage can happen. Yes, it can also happen if someone demodulates a cable signal. But the government has the power to take action against that person.


What more would you like the government/others to do to ensure 100% digitization?

The government needs to speed up the fiscal incentives, and should act as a facilitator. The fact is that it has become a schoolmaster instead. Since each city has different issues, which need to be tackled positively.


The last mile which is managed by the local cable operators is the key to the implementation of Digitization. Are all cable operators working step-in-step with MSOs in the four metros about the implementation of the October 31 deadline?

There is no issue with the cable operators. They have been pushing for DAS since 2000.


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