Finally the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting declared itself a winner in the race to seed maximum STB to implement digitisation in the four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai. The success came on the night of 31 October when in a press release the Ministry declared itself a winner and gave consolation prize to MSO DEN for seeding maximum STBs in a single day in Delhi. According to the release-
“…. there was a huge surge in the installation of Set Top Boxes (STBs) in the metro cities, especially in Delhi. A total of 1,05,180 Boxes were installed, out of which approximately 65000 Boxes were installed in Delhi alone. This huge increase in the number of Boxes installed in Delhi has taken up the Cable TV digitization to 95% in Delhi; along with DTH the digitization percentage in Delhi has gone to 97%. While Mumbai has already achieved 100% digitization, in Kolkata the percentage of Cable TV digitization has gone to 83%; If DTH is also counted, the percentage of digitization in Kolkata has touched 85%. In Chennai the pace of seeding has remained somewhat static. The Cable TV digitization in Chennai stands at 62%; however with DTH the percentage has touched 86%. The overall percentage of Cable TV digitization in 4 metro cities has gone to 91% by 30.10.2012. With DTH the digitization percentage has touched 94% in the 4 metro cities.”
“As per the data provided by the DTH operators the number of DTH subscribers in Mumbai has gone upto 7.53 lakh, whereas in Delhi it is 10.17 lakh, Kolkata has 3.20 lakh subscribers and Chennai has 7.11 lakh subscribes as on 30.10.20212. Number of DTH subscribers in the 4 metro cities has touched 28.01 lakhs.” I think the US should learn a lesson from our Ministry officials because in the US the government started the digitalisation programme in 2005 and is still struggling with extensions. Ministry official along with TRAI Chairman and Chairman of Competition Commission had gone to US in September this year for a regulatory exchange. I am sure our officials must have given a good lesson to the US officials. I am also told that many senior officials of an American broadcast Group companies operating Pay TV Channels, DTH, MSO operations and other Media ventures also accompanied them, may be to note down the minutes of the meetings.
Source: TV STREET MAPS (updated on Onctober 23,2012), MIB Estimates Source: pib.nic.in
Ministry Teams have now fanned out in the metro cities and have completed their visits to all the digital Headends. These teams will continue their visits for coming few days to ensure that the analogue signals are completely switched off. Ministry, in the meanwhile, has continued its Awareness Campaign and has decided to intensify its SMS Campaign to reach out to the remaining few people who are yet to install Set Top Boxes.
Very surprising that Ministry had to change their basic figures of Total Households, TV Households, Cable TV households etc number of times in the last six months. This indicates the poor preparation it had done to do this massive task. Even the control centre and monitoring cell were created at the last moment and hardly anyone knew about it. What also surprises me is that while it was busy implementing the Digitalisation Law, DTH players were there to condemn its efforts saying ‘cable will end’, “ cable box is a Dibba” MxM India, a news portal did a survey when Ministry claimed 87% success has been achieved and proved the Ministry wrong. Ministry made a press release the same day condemning them. According MxM India only 59 per cent of digitization had been achieved that day in the four metro as per the first ever independent survey of the extent of digitization in the four metros was conducted by Television Street Maps for MxMIndia. This number was in sharp variance to the claim made by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting that 87% of the four metro was digitized.
The figures for the four metros tell the story:
For Cable & DTH:
Mumbai: 86% (Govt: 99%)
Delhi: 45% (81%)
Kolkata: 53% (81%)
Chennai: 49% (85%)
The gap grows when you look at the achievement of digitization only in cable homes.
Mumbai: 62% (Govt: 99%)
Delhi: 34% (78%)
Kolkata: 35% (74%)
Chennai: 19% (60%)
Two important things appear in this whole exercise
1.There was no under-declaration by the LCOs and they were unnecessarily being harassed by one and all. Ministry’s last figures given on 17 September showing number of cable connections in the four metros became half of the earlier figure of 133 Lakhs announced in one of the Task Force meetings. Conclusion is that the 50% under declaration is straight away reduced.
2.There is no revenue Leakage. According to an MPA report as published in Mail Today of 28 October 2012, Government will earn Rs 5500 crore in service tax every year after Digitalisation is completed as per plan. If we believe this report, at the rate of 12.5% service tax on subscriptions, industry will collect Rs 44000 crores every year. At the rate of Rs 150/- average subscription per connection in Cable TV industry (Rs 160 is the ARPU of DTH which is completely digital and addressable) we should be having 240 million CableTV subscribers in the country. This figure is way beyond the 80 million as given by MPA itself and also mentioned by TRAI in many o9f its papers. It clearly indicates the manipulated figures of MPA and other organizations like FICCI, CII, Assocham who work mostly on behalf of Pay TV broadcasters because either they sponsor their events or head the entertainment committees of these organizations. These were the main reasons for the government to crackdown on the LCOs with mandatory digitalisation Law and clear the way for the big MSOs who would be in a better position to exploit the people and make money. What share of this booty goes to the government is yet to be seen. Considering the example of DTH players who are not paying any entertainment tax as they have taken stay orders from the courts, I am sure MSOs too will take shelter of the courts in one way or the other.
It is unfortunate that neither TRAI nor I&B Ministry apply their own mind while taking decisions for the industry. They do what these pay TV broadcasters dictate them, without understanding the ground reality. Pay TV broadcasters have been exploiting cable operators using these fake researches and also relying on TAM figures which have already been proved faulty, blaming them for under declaration when cable subscribers in India do not even subscribe to any pay channels. By thrusting pay channels on consumers through their decoders kept with cable operators, all pay channels assume that each and everyone in India is watching their 170 pay channels and so demand money from cable operators accordingly.
Since all major print media also owns broadcasting channels or they get huge revenue from ads by these broadcast groups, they continue to publish these false reports misleading the public as well as government. This has been noticed during in the last month that whenever any news paper published the true picture from the ground, journalists were pulled up by senior officials of the ministry and literally told to write only what the government told them.
SMS and Accountability not Introduced Yet
Col V C Khare, an expert in CAS and SMS installation spoke to us on how the
SMS system in a Digital headend makes the working transparent and what could be wrong
In the present system making it vulnerable to frauds and exploitation of the consumers.
According to information in Cable Quest, there is vast disparity in number of set top boxes seeded (which means sent out/issued by MSO to LCO) rather than numbers activated in SMS. There is little evidence that every subscriber activated has signed a customer acquisition form with marked rate card to go into SMS data base. Landed cost of imported STB may be different from Rs 800/- being quoted. One hopes that these costs do NOT pertain to non-addressable boxes which will enable watching content against existing subscription. Unless SMS is put in place, itemized billing may NOT materialize. Condition of networks is far from satisfactory. This was so because RoW was NOT granted. Now that RoW is provisioned, its procedures are omitted in Rules to Cable Act. With caps being placed on Cable rates, proper strand engineering may NOT materialize even with 74% FDI. Infirmities in digitization in 4 metros by 01 Nov in Cable TV segment will definitely be advantage DTH and detrimental to Cable TV. With whatever state digitization is achieved, tax remittances to Govt would definitely improve and extent of under-reporting may diminish somewhat.
What is wrong with digitization progress report and Why ?
- Most MSOs, better referred as HSPs(Headend Service Providers) do NOT understand SMS (Subscriber Management System) which is the heart of DAS. They think that it is some sort of bill printing software.
- Addressability in simple terms means ' A system to enable or disable a viewing device(STB in DAS) remotely'.
- Addressability can be achieved, if and only if, subscriber details (identity, address etc) are captured through a CAF (Customer Acquistion Form) where in locational information about viewer is recorded, terms and conditions are printed at the back, option for obtaining STB i.e. outright purchase, hire-purchase or leasing along with rates for the same are filled in, choice 'a-la-carte' or bouquet with details is tick marked by customer and attached and cheque for STB procurement mode is attached.
- This form is to be got filled by Cable Operator's technician or collection man and sent to HSP.
- At the HSP location, if service is feasible according to network map, then after realization of money, a UID is created for the customer and STB with Smart Card is released from stock.
- The stock holder on receiving UID takes out one box from stock and pairs (STB Ser No and Viewing Card Ser No) it with UID. The box is then to be taken and installed at customer premises and HSP informed to activate service.
- Service activation on one hand shows box working, enables installation man to demonstrate EPG features and customer care education\ on the other hand gives command to identify subscriber to bill according to choice in the form. This choice can be changed through customer care any time.
- SMS in HSP location can on touch of a finger give details of Number of active boxes on that Headend. This figure is most reliable. In fact screen shot of this SMS screen will only be reliable. This cannot be fudged because a related link can printout details of all active STBs.
- Itemized bills are generated on SMS and can be printed any where. Bills have a link to Cable operator for transfer of his share of revenue on computer.
- This report also generates information on number of customers on first and last day of the month to arrive at average and help checking invoice raised by broadcaster.
- SMS generates tax acruals and remittance records.
- SMS also keeps a record of STBs de-activated with reasons. In case of piracy established STB and Viewing Card are disabled for life.
- SMS helps customer care executive to talk to subscriber when called by opening subscriber's page.
- SMS also generates trouble ticket for Cable Operator's technician to attend to complaints.
- SMS has neither been understood, nor disseminated to cable operators and their staff.
- Since the above procedures are yet to be followed, DAS can not be said to be in operation on Nov 01.