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Confusion before digital leap

- Subscribers buy time to take final call on installation of set-top boxes

Cable television (TV) viewers in the city were a confused lot on Sunday over digitisation. Some installed set-top boxes, fearing blackout after midnight. Others opted for buying time.

“I still haven’t installed any digital set-top box at my home because I am waiting for the deadline. I will install the box tomo rrow only if the tele -vision screen goes blank from midnight,” said Neha Singh, a resident of Indrapuri.

Several others fell victim to the sudden price rise owing to the last-minute rush for set-top boxes.

“I got a Tata Sky digital set-top box installed with my home television set yesterday for Rs 2,200 plus Rs 200 as installation charge. The same connection was available for Rs 1,500 around a month ago. Meanwhile, the local cable operator is demanding Rs 1,500 for a set-top box plus Rs 250 as installation charge. It seemed unreasonable to me. So, I decided to go for Tata Sky,” said Vivek Anand, a resident of SK Nagar.

Till 6pm on Sunday, cable operators in the city claimed not having received any communication from the ministry of information and broadcasting regarding extension of the deadline for digitisation of cable TV.

“We have not received any communication from the ministry regarding extension of the deadline. Broadcasters (pay channels) would stop analogue transmission from midnight and over 3 lakh television sets in Patna will face a blackout thereafter,” said Sushil Kumar, the director of Darsh Digital Network Pvt. Ltd.

Sushil added that Darsh Digital sold over 3,000 set-top boxes daily in the past two to three days in the last-minute rush.

SITI Maurya Cablenet Pvt. Ltd, one of the multi-system operators (MSOs) in the city, has decided to move Patna High Court if the government doesn’t make any extension in the deadline for digitisation by Monday.

“We would wait till Monday for the government to extend the deadline considering such huge backlog in the installation of set-top boxes in Patna. If no extension is announced by tomorrow, then we will file a writ petition at Patna High Court on Tuesday challenging the digitisation deadline,” said Rajnish Dikshit, director, SITI Maurya Cablenet Pvt. Ltd.

According to recent estimates, the overall requirement of digital set-top boxes in the state capital is 4 lakh. However, around 90,000 television sets in Patna have been installed with digital set-top boxes till date.

MSOs SITI Maurya Cablenet Pvt. Ltd and Darsh Digital Network Pvt. Ltd, each holding around 30-40 per cent of the market share, supplies set-top boxes in the state capital.

Sources claimed that private DTH operators like Tata Sky, Dish TV, Big TV, Videocon d2h and others hold the remaining 20-30 per cent stake in the city’s cable television pie.

Industry experts claimed that digitisation is a tool in the hands of few leading broadcasters to enjoy monopoly over the digital cable TV market in the country.

Roop Sharma, the president of Cable Operators Federation of India, told The Telegraph over phone from Delhi: “Digitisation of cable TV is good but it is being done in absolute hurry. It is due to this haste that the first phase of digitisation in the four metropolitan cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai failed miserably. Main players, which would highly benefit from cable television digitisation, are Star TV, Zee TV and Sun TV.

“Tata Sky is the product of a joint venture between the Star and the Tata groups. Similarly, Dish TV is a product of Zee group and Sun DTH is a product of Sun TV group.

The Zee group also runs Darsh Digital Network Pvt. Ltd, a leading MSO in the country.

“Sun TV also runs an MSO. Even if analogue broadcasting is stopped, then these broadcasters would not suffer any loss. Rather, the sales of their set-top boxes would see a huge jump.”

Under the digital cable TV system, the MSOs receive signal from satellites using dish antennas and distribute it to the local cable operators through optical fibres.

These operators, in turn, transmit the signal to the set-top boxes installed with the TV sets of the subscribers.