New Delhi: The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry on Wednesday said that cable TV users in phase III urban areas will not be able to watch television after 31 January without set-top boxes. Phase III areas include 630 districts across 34 states and union territories including Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Bihar.
A ministry statement advised cable subscribers in these areas to start using set-top boxes (STBs), “failing which they would not be able to watch TV services through Cable TV Networks after 31 January, 2017.”
The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act, 2011 had mandated a switchover of the existing analog cable TV networks to digital addressable system (DAS) in four phases. Digital switch-over has already taken place in phase I and II areas, while it was scheduled to be completed in phase III and phase IV areas by 31 December 2016.
However, in December 2016, the government had extended the deadline for phase III of cable digitization by one a month and for phase IV by three months to 31 March 2017, owing to the “unsatisfactory progress of installation of set top boxes (STBs) in phase IV areas”.
According to the statement, the ministry has also issued instructions to all the broadcasters, multi-system operators and local cable operators to ensure that no analog signals are transmitted over the cable networks in phase III urban areas after 31 January. “Authorized officers under section 11 of the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act can seize the equipment of the MSOs/cable operators, if they continue to carry analog signals in phase III urban areas after 31st January, 2017,” the ministry said.
“It is a welcome decision. The process is almost complete in the phase III areas. There is no delay in the process,” said Anil Malhotra, chief operating officer at Siti Networks Limited.
Meanwhile, cable digitization under phase IV rural areas is scheduled to be completed by 31 March 2017.