Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Industry badly needs to be restructured

There is a hectic activity going on in the industry in preparation for implementing digitalisation. TRAI had put up a consultation paper for comments from the industry and surprisingly there are 83 entries in the comment list, never happened before. This is the first time in the history of Cable TV that so many people have responded to the consultation. Another surprise is that the respondents include many last mile cable operators who hardly raised their voice ever. 
This shows that this time industry stake holders are serious in implementing digitalization and do not want it to fizzle out like the CAS implementation in 2003. TRAI's consultation has raised some very serious questions on the intention of the regulator. Most of the questions lead to providing benefits to the broadcasters as if they are the most harmed people by the disorganized structure of the industry. In my point of view, this is a very wrong focus as and such hurried regulations that ignore the basic requirement of a robust Cable TV infrastructure meant to lead us to a higher broadband penetration will lead us to nowhere and the industry will remain where it is.

Many people who have responded to the consultation have voiced this concern. Whether the government pays heed to this and introduces some genuine reforms to build a strong Cable TV infrastructure is yet to be seen. 
The industry badly needs to be restructured where every existing stake holder gets his due and adequate incentives are given to the last mile providers so that they can build a better two way fiber based network that will carry all, TV channels, broadband and even voice in the future. This converging scenario needs both I&B Ministry and Telecom Ministry to work together. 
TRAI in its efforts, has been drafting such regulations for the Telecom Industry, like the new Unified Licensing Regime where it plans to issue broadcasting license also to the license holders but its proposed regulations for broadcast industry do not sync with that. How can we achieve convergence is not understood. 
Any way, we are hoping for the best to happen in a month or two. All MSOs have started preparing for the new scenario and are meeting the LCOs to propose their schemes for them to join their networks. Let's hope this time we do not see the CAS like disaster at the end. 

—— Lt. Col. (Retd.) K K Sharma



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