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Help Indian DTH providers gripe about digitisation deadline extension
Chennai, June 21: The Government’s decision to modify the earlier cable digitisation deadline of June 30 for a complete switchover to October 31 in four metros is a “massive blow” to DTH (direct-to-home) service providers.

Though the Government has said that the deferment was done in the interest of consumers and “only after intensive and extensive consultations with all the stakeholders”, DTH players say this will put a strain on the financial health of the industry.

Mr Shashi Arora, CEO of Airtel Digital TV, has said that the industry will now have to bear the additional burden of inventory carrying costs and other investments in infrastructure creation. “As an organisation, we were fully geared up for the earlier deadline of June 30, with significant investments made already to facilitate seamless adoption of this technology.” However, he said that Airtel will continue to support the Government’s digitisation agenda as it is in the best interest of our customers and look forward to its successful implementation at the earliest.
Strict action

A senior executive of another leading player in the segment said since every stakeholder in the cable industry knew that they had to comply with the deadline, “there is hardly any reason why the deadline should be extended”. At least now the Government should take strict punitive action against those who fail to comply with the new deadline, he said.

According to Mr Harit Nagpal, President, DTH Operators Association of India and Managing Director of Tata Sky, the extension is a major setback for the industry. “We have invested a great deal in terms of set-top box inventory. It’s not clear what difference the four-month delay will make that the last 6-8 months did not,” he said. “They could have at least told us that the deadline could get extended, a few months ago,” he added. Besides investment in set-top boxes, both DTH and big multi-system cable operators also employed additional manpower to execute new orders, anticipating a spurt in the digital subscriber base. Mr Nagpal says it has now turned out to be a waste of money and efforts. “Just because analogue cable operators are underprepared, the prepared lot have to bear the brunt,” he said.

The industry is of the opinion that November being the festival period, the new deadline may turn out to be unwise since it is the peak month for broadcasters for ad revenues. “Besides, the migrant installer community will also go back to their hometowns during the time,” Mr Nagpal said.
Not surprised

However, Mr Salil Kapoor, Chief Operating Officer of the market leader Dish TV, sees some merits in the postponement decision. He says, “So what if we are not able to distribute our set-top boxes now? We will do it four months later. We have contingency plans in place. According to him, the decision did not come as a surprise for him. The company could guess that much. “We did not even advertise much in the last few months,” he said.

Source: The Hindu Business Line

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This will have and adverse effect on those who were geared and prepared for digitization whereas the delay will be bonus time for those who were not prepared as they can now buck up and take necessary action to capitalize on the postponed digitization date.
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