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Cable goes to villages

The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved a new digital television signal delivery platform that can provide rural India a new version of cable operators and give some competition to Direct to Home (DTH), the only mode for watching non-terrestrial channels in rural parts.

delhi Updated: Nov 13, 2009 00:28 IST
Chetan Chauhan

The Union Cabinet on Thursday approved a new digital television signal delivery platform that can provide rural India
a new version of cable operators and give some competition to Direct to Home (DTH), the only mode for watching
non-terrestrial channels in rural parts.

“The platform (Head-end In the Sky (HITS)) would bring down the cost of setting up cable operation from Rs 2 to 3 crore to Rs 3 lakh,” I&B Minister Ambika Soni said.

“It would mean that 60,000 cable operators could go digital with investment of just for Rs 1,200 crore by adopting HITS rather than investing Rs 15,000 under the conventional modes”.

As per the new policy, a registered cable operator can receive a digital signal directly from a licensee HITS operator through a satellite, unlike the present system, where he receives an analog signal through an optical fibre from a multi-service operator (MSO). This brings down the cost of setting up cable operation dramatically.

Of the total 75 million cable television homes in India, 90 per cent receive analog signal, which means picture quality one-tenth of the digital format.

Only half of India’s 225 million homes have a television set. While 90 million receive over 100 channels through cable operators and DTH, about 45 million homes get to watch only public broadcaster Doordarshan channels through its terrestrial network.

“HITS will provide young entrepreneurs in rural India an opportunity to start cable business at very low cost,” Soni said.
For consumers, it will mean extra cost. A signal received from a HITS operator cannot be directly viewed by consumers, as is the case with the analog signals.

“Each consumer will have to buy a set-top box (like one for availing DTH service) to encrypt the signal,” said Arvind Kumar, director in-charge of broadcast policy in the ministry. A cable operator can opt for HITS system and provide digital signal, with all services such as movie on demand as provided by the DTH service providers.

The ministry, however, estimates that the cost of the box will come down to Rs 800 to Rs 1,000 from the existing cost of over Rs 1,500 with the HITS getting popular.