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Indian cable digitisation plan receives presidential assent

The Indian Government's plan to digitise the country's cable TV network by the end of 2014 has moved a step further following the assent of President Pratibha Devisingh.

The ordinance is expected to be hurried through this week as the next session of Parliament is two months away; too long a wait for the four metros of New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai which must reach a 31 March 2012 deadline for digital cable switchover, according to the presidential mandate.

Cable TV networks in about 35 cities accommodating more than one million people, such as Pune, Bangalore and Ahmedabad, must be digitised by 31 March 2013, while other urban areas are expected to complete digitisation by 31 September 2014. The rest of India's cable network will be digitised by 31 December 2014, according to the ordinance.

The move will see viewers benefit from a wider choice of TV channels, improved transmission quality, and more value added services. Meanwhile, India's fragmented cable industry is expected to see greater consolidation, as well as a reduction in broadcaster carriage fees.

The price of moving to a nationwide digital addressable cable system has been estimated at between INR15,000 crore and INR 20,000 crore.

The proposal, which has widespread approval by the cable and broadcast industry, was cleared on 13 October by the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs, and sent to the president who gave her assent on Tuesday 25 October.

The Information and Broadcasting Ministry will now insert a clause in the Cable TV Networks (Regulation) Act making cable digitisation mandatory across India.

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