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India’s digital TV deadline in peril with just 20% of homes now ready

Only 20% of homes in India's metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai have been issued with digital set top boxes ahead of the mandatory switch off of their analogue cable TV networks at the end of this month.

The cities require a combined total of 12.5 million digital set top boxes (STBs), yet only 2.9 million have so far been installed, according to data provided by stakeholders to the Ministry for Information and Broadcasting, the Financial Express reports today.

Mumbai has the highest STB penetration rate (47%) of the four metros that feature in the first phase of India's ambitious target to digitise its entire cable TV network nationwide by the end of 2014. However, with the 30 June deadline just a few weeks away, Kolkata has only reached 19% of cable homes, and almost three quarters of Delhi's cable residents are still without digital STBs.

Of the multi system operators (MSOs), Hathway has reportedly provided 40% of its 2.2 million customer base in the applicable metros with digital STBs, with InCable having serviced 26% of its 1.5 million subscribers. Digicable has now reached a quarter of its 2 million target, while DEN says 22% of its 2 million customers have now been converted to receive digital cable signals.

"Independent operators have done much better work on the ground than the organised national MSOs. These numbers show that a lot more work is required in a short time. The decision for extension or a way forward will be taken after June 15," a senior government official was quoted as saying by Financial Express.

Although private broadcasters represented by the Indian Broadcasting Foundation and News Broadcasters Association have opposed any extension to the 30 June deadline for digitising the four metros, cable operators and the state governments of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and West Bengal have now called on the government for a six-month delay.

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