TV digitisation explained

Last Updated: Thu, Sep 27, 2012 20:11 hrs

Advertisements like ‘Digitise or go dark’ worry Mumbai-based Priyanka Borooah. With the October 31 deadline staring, she knows she will soon have to get a digital set-top box (STB) for herself. At present, she has a cable connection from a local provider.

In December last year, Parliament enacted a Bill to make digitisation of cable television mandatory in India, starting with Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai on or before October 31, 2012 and pan-India by 2014. Digitisation means all cable TV households would receive digital TV signals through an STB. Jehil Thakkar, head of media and entertainment practice at KPMG, says the overall cost for the consumer will go up vastly. “The amount of price differential will depend on the the area you are located in and the service provider you choose. You can expect an increase of anywhere between Rs 160-400 a month.”

According to government statistics, a little over 30 per cent of households in the four metros are yet to convert to digital TV. As a subscriber on the normal analogue cable system with no STB, like Borooah, you have a choice. First, to move to a digital cable operator who provides an STB for your cable. Or, move to a direct-to-home (DTH) agency such as Tata Sky, Dish TV, Videocon and so on.

Installing a digital connection (STB) will cost you Rs 800-1,800 to receive the signals, at the lower end. If you choose an STB with more features, the cost will go up accordingly. As against this, installing a cable connection currently costs up to Rs 500.

What will you get in digital cable that you will not in your regular cable TV? “For one, you will get better clarity of channels and you can also pick and choose the channels you want.

And, you will have to pay only for the channels you choose,” explains Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer, Tata Sky.

The number of channels you get will also be more through the digital route. “In the analogue mode, you might get 60-70 channels. With a digital connection, you can get 120-200,” says M G Azhar, chief executive officer, DEN Networks.

If you are using a cable connection at the moment, you are paying around Rs 200 a month. Once you change to digital, your monthly costs can go up to as high as Rs 500, depending on the package or channels you choose.

But digital cable does not mean your viewing will be without interruptions. You will still have to bear with those caused by rain and wind. You can, however, get services such as high definition TV and video-on-demand through digital cable.

Some DTH providers will even let you record live shows.

Cost of setting up a
standard connection
Monthly costs
Tata Sky  Rs 1, 670  A package for 98 channels will cost   
you Rs 155 a month
Dish TV  Rs 1,190  Cheapest package is Rs 200 a month
Rs 900  Monthly will depend on what you
are paying your cable operator now 
Hathway Rs 650  Lowest package cost is Rs 300
Source: Websites and industry

So, you have until end-October to get a digital connection. A last-minute rush is likely, getting an STB might be difficult and there could be delay in installation and so on, so it is a good idea to make the transition earlier.

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