@ IDNS: No Sunset Date For Analog Networks In India

I was at the Indian Digital Networks Summit yesterday, and while most of the conversation delved into issues around cable TV and DTH, there was some talk about IPTV, broadband and the digitization of content.

“Should there be a sunset date for analog networks?” asked Asha Swarup, Secretary, Ministry of I&B during her keynote address. “The increase in demand for spectrum necessitates a move to digitization (Ed: more efficient than analog), and many countries have fixed a target date for a complete switchover. However, since digitization requires an investment for consumers, national digitization will have to be voluntary, and no terminal date should be set.” She added later that as per plans, the digitization of terrestrial networks should be completed by 2017. The government is considering opening terrestrial broadcasting for private networks, making it possible to release spectrum and share infrastructure. Terrestrial has been monopoly of public broadcaster Prasar Bharati so far.

For Prasar Bharati, cost of digitization of content is a huge challenge. DoorDarshan has chosen DVB-T for digital broadcasting, and has already begun mobile TV broadcasts using DVB-H. DoorDarshan (DD) has over 30 channels; 17 of its major studio centers have been fully digitized, and 37 are partially digitized. The government has set aside Rs. 2300 crores for digitalization of All India Radio (AIR). Prasar Bharati Infrastructure can also be shared for mobile TV networks. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is not suited to handle the content, so the ministry is proposing a Broadcast Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) for regulating content and broadcasting services. Regulatory bodies across the world are struggling to keep pace with technology, so it will have to be a participatory approach with consultation from private companies.

On the issue of regulation of IPTV, as per a report the government is considering, IPTV needs to be treated differently from the rest; Licensing conditions can be modified for including only those channels which have been permitted. Teleco will be allowed to offer VoD based on approvals of content, and will be held responsible for the content.