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India on track for fully digital TV in 2014: government

India will digitise its vast cable television network by the end of 2014 as planned, Uday Varma, secretary for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting told delegates at FICCI Frames 2012 in Mumbai yesterday (14 March).

"We believe that radio and TV play a very important role in transforming a democratic and open society such as ours. The parliament has taken the step towards passing a law for mandatory digitisation of cable TV," said Varma.

"Efforts of the auctioning process of the FM Phase 3 revolution have also begun. We will soon see 835 new FM stations come up across 250 towns in India. We are committed to time-bound digital transformation and the whole country will go digital by December 31, 2014."

Cable is by far the largest distribution method for India's burgeoning channel industry. IRS media figures from 2011 show a 17% compound annual growth rate in the spread of cable and satellite TV across India – prior to the onset of mandatory digitisation, which begins this year.

"This digitisation initiative is very unique because of its sheer size and the fact that we aim to complete it in less than three years," added Varma.

Phase One of the government's cable digitisation plan will be implemented across the four metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata by the end of June 2012.

Analysts believe consumers will benefit from more television channels; attractive tiering options with multiple genres and local, regional and niche content; an improved viewing experience; better quality of service; and benefits from intense competition between cable and direct to home (DTH) operators.

Varma also pointed out it will also ensure transparency and systematic distribution, helping to combat under declaration of subscribers and TV signal piracy.

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