Friday, 19 February 2010

Tussle on Cable TV broadcast infrastructure

The Delhi government’s decision for removal of all overhead cable TV wires from a large part of the capital may soon snowball into a tussle between 2,000-odd cable operators, the Municipal Corporation of Delhi and the telecom service providers. If not sorted out in time, this may lead to a complete blackout of cable TV services to around 8 million consumers in Delhi.

Cable operators want the clearance from the government to share the underground cabling rights given to various telecom firms, including Reliance, Bharti and MTNL. However, cable operators allege that the telcos have not shown any interest to resolve the issue, as some of them are also DTH service providers.

The cable industry has called upon the Delhi government to identify and unbundle the spare capacity with bigger telecom players like Airtel, MTNL and Reliance.

According to a notice given by the MCD, all overhead cable wires in large parts of the city have to be removed by February-end. This is part of the special drive undertaken by the Delhi government to beautify the city ahead of the Commonwealth Games in October. In response, over 2,200 registered cable operators and multi service operators (MSOs) have suggested underground laying of cable wires, covering around 200 km in the city subject to fast track government clearances.

"We have had several rounds of meetings with the MCD officials. We are for the beautification of the capital provided we get clearances from all departments concerned of the Delhi government. We will now approach the chief minister," says Roop Sharma, president, Cable Operator's Federation of India (COFI), the apex body of all registered cable operators.

According to cable operators, there are already around 600 km of underground cable wires carrying cable TV signals in the capital. But, owing to ongoing construction works by Delhi Metro and other agencies, underground cabling in a large area has been damaged.

The cable industry has put forth several suggestions before the Delhi government to tackle the issue of removal of overhead cable wires. These include formation of special corridors for cable laying by single-window clearance for permissions from various government agencies like NDMC, MCD, PWD and DDA, and laying of common ducts and common fibre.

"Once we get the government support on our suggestions, it won't take more than four-five months to shift overhead cable wires underground," said Sharma. All stakeholders concerned are likely to meet again later this week.


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