There has been a rapid development in the Indian Cable TV industry in the past two decades which is largely due to entrepreneurial skills of the cable operators. The cable TV transmission in the country is predominantly analogue and limited to provisioning of TV Channels only.
Due to technological developments there is a fierce competition to the existing conventional Cable TV operators from operators who use advance distribution technologies like DTH, HITS, IPTV etc. With spread of convergence it is also possible to provide telecom services like broadband and Internet telephony through cable TV networks.
An appropriate regulatory framework to enable the orderly growth of the sector is need of the hour. The provisions for registration, information system for monitoring of cable TV industry, customer grievance redressal and quality of service etc need immediate attention.
There is a scope for growth in the cable TV sector in view of new technologies available today. The investment opportunities in the sector have also increased. A supportive regulatory environment will facilitate the constructive growth.
In order to address all these issues, TRAI has come out with a consultation paper on 4 march 2008 which will initiate meaningful deliberations. The comments and inputs from stakeholders would enable TRAI to formulate the recommendations on the subject which will help orderly growth of the Cable TV services in the country. Comments are sought by TRAI from all stakeholders on the following issues:
Change in the regulatory framework to take care of technological advancement, convergence etc. for effective regulation of Cable TV Industry.
Transparency in registration process of cable TV operator, adequate monitoring to ensure better cable TV services and provision of Appellate Authority.
Mechanism for effective consumer grievances redressal;
Amendment in the Cable Act/Cable Rules & need for different regulatory framework for MSOs; QoS parameters for non CAS areas and monitoring mechanism to ensure effective implementation. The stakeholders have been requested to send their comments by 15 April, 2008. The consultation paper is also available on TRAI’s Website (www.trai.gov.in).
This initiative by TRAI has been welcomed by the industry but they consider it too late. Although the Cable TV business was the first one to come under the care of TRAI for regulation, they preferred to push all other competing technologies like DTH, IPTV, Mobile TV and HITS in to the market first. Even CAS has been deferred unduly, the industry feels. If CAS and digitalisation had been promoted in the industry three years ago, half the country would have been digitalised by now, feel some experts.
What is required in the industry first is a regulatory support to promote consolidation. Rest of the things will follow automatically. Consolidation will come only when thousands of cable operators operating small networks get an assurance through a regulatory regime of their survival in the industry. At present they are feeling very unsafe with the entry of big players like Reliance and Bharti in the market.
TRAI expects a good response to their consultation paper from the stake holders including many LCOs.