Jaldi 5 with M R Srinivasan: Chennai could need 3-6 months for digitization switch-over

16 Nov,2012

01. The court has extended the sunset date. How is the situation in Chennai post the extension?

In Chennai currently, there is a big confusion. One day we went to the court and got interim order stay and now the case has gone to the Bench, which will have the hearing on 19th. Secondly, despite our letters to MSOs and MIB from our end, none of them are importing the set-top boxes. SAB said that they will be able to import boxes in 21 days provided the LCOs deposit advance money. But some of our members have already deposited two lakh rupees as advance last month. They are yet to receive to boxes. We will be submitting the dealing to the Court on 19th.


There is uncertainty also because Arasu cable has not been given license yet to provide STB, and once it is given the license it will conquer the market. So, the existing MSO and licensed players are not sure of importing the boxes yet. As they may get wiped out once Arasu gets license.


Four out of eight players who have got license, only three have installed head-ends.


02. What are your expectations from the Bench on 19th?

Well, they should extend the deadline. And if the extension is given, I&B Ministry should take views from all stakeholders. And all the information should be furnished clearly for and by stakeholders in front of MIB. Verification should be done if the said number of STB have been installed and activated. It should be made known as to how many boxes have been imported and how many of it installed by every player, since the imported boxes are usually smuggled in Middle East or Sri Lanka.


03. How much of Chennai has been digitised, according to you?


Right now, as per active status given to broadcasters by SAB it is 1.25 lakhs. As per our calculation, the active status is 1.3-1.5 lakhs only. DTH players are claiming that they have sold seven lakh connections. Most of these boxes, almost about 300-400 per month, are smuggled out of Chennai. In Chennai, about three-four lakh of these claimed DTH connections are active. We require about four million boxes in Chennai metropolitan area, which also covers the outskirts of Chennai.


04. Even if the extension is given, how much time would Chennai require to reach 100% digitisation?

Chennai would need 3-6 months to switch completely to digital signals. It is well-known that analogue signals are still on in Delhi and Mumbai where 100% digitization has been claimed. In Delhi and Mumbai, boxes are available aplenty and still they have analogue signals. Here in Chennai, we do not have STBs. It is important that analogue signals are not switched off.


05. How does analogue benefit the stakeholder?

We have 4G spectrum, but TRAI has not wiped out 2G. With digital, 10-15 analogue channels should be available. Not everyone can afford a STB. One should also think of low-income households.


As told to Ananya Saha


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