There will be no extension of the 31 October deadline for the first phase of the switch from analogue to digital cable television, although the government is concerned that the industry isn’t moving fast enough to install the required number of set-top boxes in time.
The government is committed to the digitization of cable television, Uday Kumar Varma, secretary, ministry of information and broadcasting, said at a Confederation of Indian Industry meeting in New Delhi on Thursday.
“There should be no need to reiterate this, but some people are hoping that DAS or digital addressable system may go the CAS (conditional access system) way and get postponed. I restate the government’s commitment to digitization,” he said.
The original 30 June deadline was moved to 31 October when some constituents of the cable industry sought more time for preparation.
Varma said the government was worried about the slow progress the cable operators were making in moving from analogue to digital.
In the first phase, the four metros—Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai—need to switch to digital cable. Currently, only 50% of Mumbai, 35% of Kolkata, 29% of Delhi and 12.4% of Chennai have been digitized, according to statistics compiled by the government. In view of the deadline for these four cities, the cable industry has to seed 170,000 boxes a day in the next two months, Varma said.
“The current rate is not even one-tenth of this. We are worried,” he said, adding that the industry should not count on the possibility of extension. “It is categorically ruled out.”
Rahul Khullar, chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), said digitization has been mandated by the law of the land. “Technology has overtaken us and we need to adjust. Any organization which does not adapt to change dies,” he said, referring to resistance to digital cable from some stakeholders.
The Bill to digitize the cable sector in India by 31 December 2014 was passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2011. The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill 2011 includes mandatory digitization of the entire country, systematized registration of cable operators and the use of standard equipment by the industry, among other things.