The much awaited regulations for DAS areas scheduled to be issued by 31st March have finally come at the fag end of April. Only 60 days are left for the first phase to be over. How does the ministry expect things to roll out in this condition, is beyond my comprehension. Many cable operators who want to install their own headends and operate independently are unable to do so because of this uncertainty. They need time to get their license from I&B, get the content and install their Headends.
All cable operators are apprehensive of their huge investments going waste, which they can hardly afford, particularly now when they may lose their livelihood permanently if I&B Ministry is adamant in imposing the deadlines without coming out with supporting regulations and also insisting that every headend provides 500 digital channels.
The only people who may benefit from such an illogical move of the government are a few large MSOs who have the support of big broadcaster groups who are trying to create their monopolies in every which way for the last 15 years and are well prepared to capture the market of LCOs after buying them out. DTH companies which are already digital by their design are also ready to lure the cable subscribers into their fold. Even the big MSOs are not so well prepared for the task if we see the rate at which STBs are being installed. This way, it is just not possible to meet the deadlines but government ‘s aim appears to be very clear; to make life more difficult for LCOs to survive.
Ironically, the consumers who are most affected, have not yet come into the full picture. The TV and radio advertisements released by I&B Ministry have not been fully understood by the people and they expect MSOs/ cable operators to provide STBs free of cost to them. I still feel that 50 percent of subscribers, even in the metros will not be able to afford the STBs and pay channels. Public reaction to total digitalization will only be felt after 30th June when analog is switched off.
I don’t think consumers who are used to watching so many channels including many pay channels in one package for the last twenty years will immediately accept paying for them in a-la-carte mode. It is also beyond comprehension that instead of issuing the tariff order by 31st March which was scheduled, TRAI went to Supreme Court and delayed the process achieving nothing except delay the process more.
Central Government doesn’t appear to be really interested in digitalizing the cable networks because it is not in their priority as evidenced from the budget outcomes. No incentives have been giving to the industry in any form.
I am only crossing my fingers that at the end of the day, we don’t lose such an important initiative for the nation due to short-sightedness of a few bureaucrats/ politicians and the whole process gets delayed till the general elections in 2014 are over. In this whole scenario of misplaced policies, DTH will definitely gain because they are well entrenched in the digital field for the last many years.