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India’s digitisation deadline poses challenge for cable companies

A shortage of set-top boxes and customer ignorance is reportedly hampering the efforts of India's cable TV operators to digitise networks in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata by the government's June 2012 deadline.

Over 60,000 set top boxes need to be installed daily to cover an estimated 10 million cable homes in the four metros in time. However, set top manufacturers are struggling to deliver to order, with Brazil, Russia, China and South Korea also digitising networks concurrently with India, reports the Economic Times.

Furthermore, with deprecation in the value of the Indian rupee, many of the small independent cable operators – thought to be close to 80% of the 70,000 cable operators nationwide – are reportedly struggling to finance the digitisation process.

Yet without a digital set top box, India's metro-based consumers will be unable to access the cable channels they previously received on analogue networks come July. So, direct to home (DTH) satellite TV operators are reportedly poised to help 'sweep up' where delays hit cable digitisation.

The DTH industry will be able to grab 30%-70% of the analogue cable homes across various phases depending on the locations," claims Jawahar Goel, managing director, Dish TV, speaking to the Economic Times.

Tata Sky told the publication it can connect subscribers to its DTH service within a day of receiving their application, and is set up to take on board an influx of new customers over the coming five months.

"The large investments expected from cable operators for setting up the infrastructure in such a short span of time and competition from DTH players could create unemployment among smaller cable operators," Roop Sharma, president Cable Operators Federation of India, is quoted as saying in The Economic Times.

"Digitalisation is a mammoth task and there are concerns whether the deadline for the four metros will be achieved," he added.

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