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Set-top box import boosts digital switch

Around a lakh set-top boxes were flown in from Hong Kong last week, robbing Calcutta of one more excuse for stalling the switch to digital TV signals.

The city MSOs, too, on their part have been keeping up pressure on the subscribers to procure set-top boxes for a couple of weeks by beaming only a handful of channels on their analogue networks.

Industry insiders believe that with the boxes available, time is ripe for a complete switch to the digital addressable system (DAS).

The Centre had set a December 27, 2012, deadline for the Calcutta MSOs to wrap up the switch. But like the previous two deadlines — June 30 and October 31 — this, too, was not honoured as the MSOs were reluctant to take analogue signals off the beam without the state government’s consent, fearing a law and order problem.

Cable industry insiders believe that unless the analogue signals are entirely switched off by all the players — like it happened in Delhi and Mumbai after the October 31 deadline — the owners of most of the remaining 30 per cent TVs would not go for a set-top box.

Sources said the city MSOs would together meet state urban development minister Firhad Hakim next week and tell him that they are ready to implement the DAS.

“We will approach Firhad Hakim, who has been interacting with us on the matter on behalf of the state government and ask him whether we can switch off the remaining analogue signals this month,” said the director of one of the leading MSOs in the city.

“The state government has always been opposed to digitisation, which is strange because if the cable TV trade becomes transparent, which it will be once DAS is fully implemented, the government will stand to gain Rs 50 crore annually by way of amusement tax.”

The city is estimated to have 42 lakh TV sets and the amusement tax under the new regime is Rs 10 lakh per connection per month.

The MSOs said they would meet Hakim armed with a package for the poor that Mamata Banerjee had earlier requested them to come up with.

“The government can again raise the issue of poor subscribers. We are in the process of finalising a easy-instalment scheme for them,” said Sudip Ghosh of Manthan Broadband Services.