Get set or go blank

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By PIYUSH KUMAR TRIPATHI
  • Published 12.03.13
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The state capital, like the metropolitan cities of the country, is on the verge of missing the first deadline for digitisation of all cable televisions.

Patna is one of the 38 cities with population over 10 lakh, where digitisation of cable TV network has to be put into effect before April 1, 2013, according to an ordinance of the Union government passed in October 2011.

At present, the situation is such that even televisions at Raj Bhavan and of chief minister Nitish Kumar’s official residence at 1 Aney Marg are yet to get digital set-top boxes.

Apart from that of the first citizen of the state and the chief minister, over 3 lakh television sets in Patna are awaiting digitisation as mandated by the ordinance passed by the Government of India in October 2011.

According to the central government ordinance, all cable TV connections should go digital by December 2014.

According to recent estimates, the overall requirement of digital set-top boxes in Patna is 4 lakh. However, according to market experts, only around 60,000-70,000 set-top boxes have been installed till date. The deadline is just 20 days away.

Going by the ongoing market trend, it is being said around 2 lakh television sets in Patna can show blank screens from April 1 because of non-conversion from analogue to digital system.

The supply of the set-top boxes in Patna is mainly being done by two multi-system operators — SITI Maurya Cablenet Pvt. Ltd and Darsh Digital Network Pvt. Ltd — each having around 30-40 per cent of the market share. Sources claimed that the remaining 20-30 per cent is being contributed by private Digital-to-Home (D2H) operators like TataSky, Dish TV, Big TV, Videocon D2H among others.

The multi-system operators function through around 400 local cable operators in the city. Around 200 such operators are associated with SITI Maurya Cablenet Pvt. Ltd and the remaining are linked with Darsh Digital Network Pvt. Ltd.

Under the digital cable TV system, the multi-system operators receive signal from satellites using dish antennas and distribute it to the local cable operators through optical fibre, which further sends it to the set-top boxes installed at the television sets of the subscribers.

“We have installed around 35,000 set-top boxes in Patna from September 2012,” said Rajnish Dikshit, the director of SITI Maurya Cablenet Pvt. Ltd, adding that the boxes are mostly being imported from China, Vietnam and Thailand.

Sushil Kumar, the director of Darsh Digital Network Pvt. Ltd, too said they have installed around 30,000-35,000 set-top boxes in Patna till date.

“Though we, along with the local cable operators, are working hard to install the set-top boxes at maximum number of houses, there seems to be lack of required enthusiasm among the people, leading to slow progress in digitisation in the city,” he said.

However, things are changing, as the cable operators have claimed there has been a surge in demand of set-top boxes lately.

“Till a few weeks ago, the stock of the boxes lay idle with us. Though only 20 per cent of the existing cable users have installed set-top boxes, the installation rate has increased in the past few weeks. People are calling our representatives to get the set-top boxes installed,” said Rakesh Kumar, owner of Om Hardware Cable Network, a local cable operator based at Kurji.

According to the prevailing prices, a standard display set-top box, which is being installed at most of the houses costs Rs 999 and the local operators can charge Rs 100 as installation fee. However, the last-minute rush in digitisation seems to have led to exorbitant prices being charged by the local operators.

“I have two television sets at my house. I already had TataSky installed in one of them and my local operator installed a set-top box in February. The operator charged Rs 2,000 for it,” said Arpita, a resident of Ram Nagari Sector-2, Rs 900 more than what her neighbour paid a few months ago for one of the same make.

Rajiv Nagar resident Sushil Kumar said his local operator quoted Rs 1,500 for installing a set-top box. “This shouldn’t have been more than Rs 1,100. Thus, I have not bought one yet,” said Sushil.