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Operators strike upon formula to take on CAS

New Delhi, June 8: With the conditional access system for cable television set to roll out from July 14, here is a look at what four major distributors of cable television channels — Hathway/Wincable, Incable, Siticable and RPG Net — are doing.

The multi-system operators (MSOs) are investing in the infrastructure for CAS. The billing and subscriber management systems would be in their control rooms. They would also be distributing set-top boxes mainly through the local cable operator. The MSOs have written to the information and broadcasting ministry, saying they can distribute 70 free-to-air channels without the viewer having to buy a set-top box.

Hathway/Wincable: Murdoch owns 26 per cent in the MSO. Hathway has announced that it is making an investment of Rs 100 crore in its control rooms in Mumbai and New Delhi. Hathway has opted for the system from NDS Technology called Videoguard. NDS is also a Murdoch-own company.

Hathway will distribute Humax set-top boxes, procured from Korea. Hathway’s system will be digital. “We will ensure that the price cuts on set-top boxes is passed on to the consumers,” Hathway’s vice-president (north), S.. Sharma, said.

Incable: The Hinduja company has tied up with Kudelski, a Swiss firm. It will use the conditional access system developed by Nagravision, a subsidiary of Kudelski. Incable’s digital system will, like the other MSOs’, adopt smartcard technology for the set-top boxes.

“We believe that Nagra technology solution is ideally suited for the Indian market and takes into account the emerging needs of the various constituents including customers, broadcasters/other service providers, as well as the last mile local cable operators,” a statement from the MSO said.

Siticable: A subsidiary of Zee Telefilms, Siticable was permitted by the ministry last month to launch its Headend In The Sky (HITS) to distribute pay channels in the CAS regime. HITS is a brand of AT&T Broadband Solutions. Siticable will also distribute Cornax set-top boxes.

Siticable sources claim cable operators will have to make a minimum investment in the HITS because they can receive all pay channels from a single dish.

Siticable has also signed an agreement with the Indian Space Research Organisation to provide satellite segment services. “This is going to redefine cable TV distribution business in the country. Everyone in the value chain — broadcasters, MSOs, cable operators and viewers — will benefit from our HITS model,” Siticable boss Subhash Chandra has promised. Siticable sources claim they have placed orders for 2 lakh set-top boxes.

RPG Net: Calcutta’s largest MSO RPG Netcom will implement CAS provided by Dalvi Technology of the UK. Company sources say it uses sophisticated encryption technology and digital scrambling of the video signal and claim it is most adaptable to Indian conditions.

Since RPG Netcom announced that its set-top boxes would cost Rs 3,200 each, customs duty on the boxes have been reduced to 5 per cent. RPG boxes could well be the cheapest in the market.

However, all MSOs are working on packages to market set-top boxes in a way that a full down payment of the price of the box may not be necessary. RPG’s boxes will be from Hi-Tech Systems and Services.

The RPG Netcom chief executive, Dilip Sen, has claimed that the UK company was selected after tests and field trials.

“We have already taken delivery of 50,000 set-top boxes,” he said at a recent news conference, adding that another consignment would reach later this month.

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