New Delhi: Cable TV distributors have sought government permission for infrastructure sharing to reduce the cost of reaching remote areas and meet the deadline for digitization, minutes of a government task force meeting showed.
Currently, multi-system operators (MSO) such as InCablenet, Hathway Cable and Siticable which run large distribution networks are required to establish and maintain their own infrastructure. There are 900 MSOs and 60,000 cable operators in India.
Citing the high costs to provide signals in remote areas, MSOs and local cable operators have asked the Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry to allow infrastructure sharing, minutes of the meeting of a task force on cable TV digitization uploaded on the ministry website showed.
The request from operators comes in the backdrop of an ongoing consultation process on infrastructure sharing started by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) in September, including open house discussions, to help operators reduce capital and operating expenditures.
Providing signals to the consumers in remote areas requires high investments and developing infrastructure individually increases the overall cost of operators.
“It is the need of the hour. Infrastructure sharing reduces the cost heavily and will help all the players in the market to serve the consumers in the best possible way,” said Anil Malhotra, chief operating officer at Siti Networks Ltd.
The government has mandated a switch-over of the existing analog cable TV networks to digital addressable systems in four phases. The first three phases are already complete and the last phase is scheduled to close on 31 March 2017.
According to information the ministry has received from operators, only 32% of cable homes in phase IV areas had a set top box so far. Moreover, the operators say “at least 20% of rural and remote areas may not be financially and technically viable” for them to provide signals and these should be served by direct-to-home platforms only.
However, according to the minutes, the ministry feels the actual figure may be as high as 50% and will grow further before the 31 March deadline. Meanwhile, the ministry has asked the operators to file a written request to facilitate infrastructure sharing