The conditional access system (CAS) may be treading the thin line between the deadline and sudden death in the Capital, but in Calcutta, at least one major player is ready to roll. If CAS stays on course, on September 1, the first of four zones in the city, southwest Calcutta — including areas like Kidderpore, Behala, Chetla, Alipore, New Alipore, Metiabruz, Mahestala and Budge Budge — will start off with it. And the largest multi-system operator (MSO) in the city is “confident and ready” for it, according to CEO Dilip Sen of RPG Netcom.
The choice of both analog and digital set-top boxes is on offer, with analog prices already fixed. Provided by the UK-based DALVI Technology, they cost Rs 2,300, plus 10 per cent local taxes, with a security deposit of Rs 1,800 and a monthly rental of Rs 45. The tenure is five years and Rs 1,500 is refundable at the end.
“The difference between analog and digital boxes is that the former is more compatible with the existing technology here. It will meet 90 per cent of the requirements of 90 per cent of the subscribers. It is value for money, since it is cheaper. The picture is manually adjustable if it is unclear. With digital boxes, you get many more channels, but you either get the picture or you don’t. There is no room for adjustment. Digital, however, is the technology of the future,” Sen explained on Friday.
He added that while there would be provisions for changeovers once a consumer had bought either box, “they should think before buying. We are negotiating a deal with the US-based Scientific Atlanta, and will be announcing the prices soon for digital boxes.” RPG Netcom has ordered 60,000 boxes, to be made available on September 1 for Zone One in the city, which has around 1.5 lakh subscribers, and anticipates “no shortage, since there will be enough”.
The free-to-air channels, a minimum of 30 stipulated by the information and broadcasting ministry, which will include all genres of television-viewing, from news to entertainment, can be viewed without set-top boxes. The pay channels will require the boxes, to unscramble the encrypted signal. The viewer can change his choice of pay channels every month.
“This requires a huge infrastructural development, which will have to be analysed. The box and customer number will identify each subscriber, since individual needs will have to be catered to. We have tied up with UshaComm to provide the subscriber management software,” said Sen.
Although broadcasters still haven’t fixed prices for the pay channels, the free-to-air channels will cost a lumpsum of Rs 72, plus taxes. It is this price that is causing confusion, since all channels will be free-to-air in August. “But we don’t know what happens in the non-CAS areas once the roll-out starts, since it is a four-month process,” said Sen, adding that he could “sympathise” with local cable operators, since Rs 72 is “not enough. But the ministry is considering the issue.”