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Indian cabinet sets out cable TV digitisation timetable

India's vast and fragmented cable TV network must be digitised by the end of 2014, with India's four major cites going digital by next spring, after agreement was reached at a government cabinet meeting on Thursday (13 October).

"Cable operators will have to abandon analogue in the four metros by 31 March next, while cities with a population of one million will be covered by 31 March 2013. All urban areas would be covered by 30 September 2014. The entire country will be covered by 31 December 2014," said Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni, after the meeting of the Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs.

The draft ordinance will now be sent to President Pratibha Devisingh Patil for her consideration and it will be promulgated and notified after her approval, said Soni.

Section 4A of the Cable TV Networks (Regulations) Act 1995 must be amended as currently it does not cover the transmission of free to air channels through a digital set top box.

About 116 million homes in India currently receive cable TV through the services of almost 500 multi system operators (MSOs) and 60,000 last mile cable operators (LCOs). Around 83 million of these homes currently receive analogue cable.

Cable TV remains the dominant pay-TV distribution platform in India, with a 75% market share compared to direct to home (DTH) satellite's 25%, according to a 2011 report from consultancy Screen Digest.

Terrestrial television transmission is not expected to be digitised in India until 2017.

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