While most observers recognised that a June 30th date for converting India’s four largest ‘metros’ from analogue to digital distribution was a little ambitions, it is only now – with the cut-off date looming – that wiser heads are saying that a time extension will be needed.
The four huge cities (Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai) represent massive headaches for the main and subsidiary cable operators. An Indian Parliamentary committee is now beginning to understand the massive undertaking, and they are worried in the first place that there are not enough set-top boxes, or encryption ‘smart cards’, to meet demand.
India’s Standing Committee for Information Technology admits that it would prefer 100 percent of STBs to be produced locally, and allows boxes to be imported with a modest 5 percent import tariff (which it is contemplating increasing to 10 per cent) but recognises that the supply of smart cards is largely in the hands of 4 or 5 major manufacturers. The Committee has been told that India technology companies could make local ‘smart cards’ but would need around 6 months to gear up and produce the first prototypes.