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Be ready to foot a higher cable TV bill from Jan '10
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NEW DELHI: Come 2010, your monthly cable TV bill is set to go up. Telecoms and broadcasting regulator Trai is set to come out with the revised rates for all cable TV channels by December-end. Cable TV tariffs in the country were last fixed by the regulator in October 2007, and have not been revised since then. According to a Trai source, cable TV tariffs are set to be revised upwards, especially to offset inflation, even as this official added that the new rates could be applicable from as early as January 2010.

The exact quantum of the hike will be determined only after detailed consultation process involving all stakeholders — cable operators, multi-system operators, broadcasters and consumer groups, this Trai official added. The move by the regulator comes as the Supreme Court had earlier asked Trai to look into all matters relating to cable TV tariffs.

The revised cable TV tariff structure will be applicable in all non-CAS areas, which constitute the entire country except select zones in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata and all of Chennai. Currently, in non-CAS areas, the monthly bill varies from Rs 77 to a maximum of Rs 260.

Trai, in its upcoming consultation process, may also seek to retain the current structure where the tariff caps are fixed as per status of the city, which depends on its population and paying power. At present, all cities are categorised into A-1, A, B-1, B-2 and ‘others’.

Besides, in each of these cities, Trai had fixed five different slabs, where each slab has a fixed number of FTA (free-to-air) and pay channels. The regulator has also worked out draft business models of all stakeholders and has asked the industry to provide inputs on it so that this data can be used to arrive at cable TV tariffs.

However, a large section of the broadcasters are opposed to Trai capping prices and want the tariffs to be determined by market forces. Broadcaster say imposing a ceiling will lead to an increase in carriage fee that they would have to pay to operators and also impact their subscription revenues. Cable operators say any move to hike tariffs will lead to customers opting for digital platforms such as DTH, IPTV and HITS.

“Trai is being advised by E&Y who helped the regulator come up with the draft business model. These figures mentioned in the model were arrived at by consulting just a handful of stakeholders in big cities,” said Roop Sharma, president of the Cable Operators Federation of India (COFI).

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