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Box-makers pitch for analog option

CAS count

— An analog box can carry up to 99 channels; a digital one, more than 600

— Analog box will cost around Rs 3,000, but digital decoder won’t come for less than Rs 5,000

— Analog model entails investment of Rs 20 lakh at MSO’s end, against Rs 2.5 crore for a digital platform

— While the analog system is robust, a digital signal is highly sensitive, requiring significant upgradation of the operators’ last-mile network

Even as debate on the magic box — its price range and procurement options — rages in cable homes across the city, overseas makers of the decoder, which will bring the pop pay channels into drawing rooms from July 15, feel it’s wiser to start off with the analog model.

“It’s a myth that analog boxes are easily hacked and that a digital box can’t be decoded. We are setting up a facility in Mumbai to manufacture 100,000 analog set-top boxes a month and are sure Calcutta will account for a sizeable portion of that production,” said Jerry Hor, president of Eastern Electronics Co. Ltd of Taiwan. Eastern, a leading name in Asia in conditional access hardware, makes both analog and digital boxes. Hor, who was in town for a presentation at the two-day seminar on CAS organised by the Cable TV Equipments Traders & Manufacturers Association, stressed that an analog platform was most suited to India, at least in the initial phase of CAS implementation.

Dalvi, a UK-based maker of decoders, also feels the analog box is the best start-up option in India, and is quite bullish about business in Calcutta. “Consumers in this city are extremely price-conscious, and would think thrice, maybe four times, before investing in a digital box, which won’t come for anything below Rs 5,000,” said Ashutosh Nigam, local dealer for Dalvi.

Lewis Zimbler of the UK firm, which is setting up a 40,000-per-month manufacturing facility in Chandigarh, said: “Our analog decoders are running in various countries in Europe and Latin America and there hasn’t been a single report of hacking till now. Besides, the digital box is not really sacrosanct, as anything which is encoded can be decoded,” he emphasised.

While an analog box can carry up to 99 channels, a digital box has the capacity to decode 600-plus channels. But most manufacturers felt Calcutta is not ready for the digital investment yet. “Not only is the cost of the box higher, the last-mile operator will have to invest at least Rs 1,500 on each subscriber to upgrade his network. How many cable operators can afford that'” asked a representative of a decoder manufacturer.

While the initial demand has to be met through imports, the manufacturers are confident of getting their India operations on stream soon. “Orders from Calcutta have been particularly encouraging, and we feel the level of preparedness among the service providers here is very good,” observed Hor.

Pawan Jajodia, chairman of the CAS seminar committee, felt 20 to 25 per cent of cable homes in Calcutta would opt for the set-top box from Day One of CAS itself.

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