Deadline extension likely for installation of set-top boxes

The deadline set by Telecom Regulation Authority of India (TRAI) for cable TV subscribers to install set-top boxes is likely to be postponed due to supply problems of the Chinese-made units. The deadline was set for March 31, but the development could push the date further.

The current number of set-top boxes supplied by private companies in China are not enough to cover the existing legal 2.5 lakh cable network subscribers in the district. According to Vasant Patwardhan, former chairman of the Maharashtra and Goa Cable Network Association, the delay is due to loopholes arising in the supply, and questions are being raised whether the set-top boxes would be beneficial for the customers.

Difficult task: Not even half the number of set-top boxes requited for the 2.5 lakh cable network subscribers have been supplied

“Along with Pune, 37 other cities across the country have been given the March 31 deadline to install set-top boxes. Ultimately there would be pressure on the private companies in China that are supplying the units. Not even half the number of set-top boxes requited for the 2.5 lakh cable network subscribers have been supplied by the private companies in China,” said Patwardhan.

He added that some of the Chinese set-top boxes are incompatible for High Definition (HD) transmission, besides throwing up other issues. “When a customer purchases set-top box, it would be registered in the cable control room of that customer’s residential area.

But if the customer shifts to another area of the city, then the set-top box would be of no use and that customer would have to buy another one compatible with the new control room,” Patwardhan said. He added that TRAI only announced that the network would be digitalised and for that set-top boxes are a requisite. “However, there is no controlling authority to oversee the demand and supply of these units,” Patwardhan said.

Reacting on this, Executive Chairman of Akhil Bhartiya Grahak Panchayat, Suryakant Pathak said that although installation of set-top boxes increases revenue for the government and brings transparency in the cable television business, it would not be beneficial for cable subscribers.

“Compulsory installation of set-top boxes is being implemented simultaneously in 38 cities across the country, so supply would obviously get delayed. Also, the cost of set-top boxes would also increase as a result,” Pathak said.

District Entertainment Duty Department head Geetanjali Shirke said although there are 2.5 lakh legal cable subscribers, around five-lakh set-top boxes need to be installed in the district.

“We should also consider the illegal cable connections and set-top boxes. Such subscribers are at par with legal subscribers and therefore, it seems that the March 31 deadline for installing set-top boxes would have to be extended,” Shirke said.  

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