1. What is the problem with 90s Cable TV system?
  2. TRAI: Cable digitalization
  3. Difference: DAS vs DTH?
  4. What is set top box (STB)?
  5. Why Jayalalitha is unhappy?
  • In the 90s era, the TV channels were sent in analog and unencrypted form. You local Cable operator would install a big white dish on his roof, receive those signals and then lay down wires to each household.
  • This is called “Analog” cable TV system. But Let’s just call it 90s Cable TV. Ok so next question, what is the

Problem with 90s Cable TV system?

#1: customer’s problem

  • It can carry up to 80-100 TV channels. (Dish TV, Tatasky etc have more than 500)
  • In this system the consumers do not have an option to choose channels/services of their choice and pay accordingly, rather they have to pay for the entire bouquet of channels offered by the cable operator.
  • Lack of quality. Generally local Cable operator would hand out connections to way too many people than his signal-capacity. So TV image quality will be poor.
  • Inconvinience: because the entire system runs on cable wires, it’d breakdown during kite-flying season, heavy-rain etc.

#2: TV channel owner’s problem

  • The local cable operator would under-report the number of customers and pocket the money.
  • E.g. if 1000 households have his cable connection and each pays Rs.50 to watch Zee TV channel monthly. Then he would only send money of 500-800 household to the Zee TV channel owner.

#3: local Cable operator’s problem

  • There is a joint house with three brothers and their separate families.
  • They’d pay for only one connection and watch three TVs in three separate rooms, because it is “unencrypted”. (This is not possible in DTH or DAS because they’re ‘encrypted’. So if you have more than one TV in your house, you’ve to pay extra money.)
  • Entry of mafia-elements, frequent territorial disputes between cable-operators, including gun-firing and supari-killings.
  • Customers don’t pay money on time, use more than one TV on same connection.

TRAI: Cable digitalization

  • To settle the problems of all three groups (customers, TV channel owners and local cable operators), the TRAI came out with new rule: “compulsory for every cable operator to show channels through a digital addressable system (DAS) in the entire country.”

Incase you wonder what is TRAI doing here? Well it regulates not only the Telecom network but also the internet, broadband, broadcasting network, cable TV, hell even FM radio.

Who gets how much? (Approximatly)

When Customers Pays Rs.100
Local Cable operators gets Rs.35
Whole-seller,known as multi-system operator or MSO. Rs.23
TV channel owner Rs.42

When it came to implementing the TRAI order for “Cable Digitization”, local Cable operator had to install Set-top boxes in each house and rewire the whole network.

Each settop box would cost about Rs.700+.

Who would pay the money?

  • Middle-class families would simply move to DTH system (tatasky, dish TV etc. because of their “portability” advantage listed after some paragraphs).
  • The lower middle-class families couldnot pay all money in one go, and couldnot afford DTH system.
  • So, they had to be given the set-top box and then collect money in ‘installments’ everymonth.
  • But local cable operators did not have that much money of their own, to install set-top boxes in 200-500 houses in their territory.
  • The (Whole-sellers) MSOs took advantage of this opportunity.
  • They made up agreements with local cable operators, under which MSOs would finance the money to install set-top box, in-lieu of local cable operator accepting the MSO as business-partner.
  • Thus local cable operator’s share is permanently. Because partnership is not like ‘business-loan’, it never ends. A business partner has to be given part of profit  forever!
  • Moral of the story: In any business, Small players are always exploited, by the big players- both domestic and foreign.

Anyways the original deadline was following

31 October 2012 Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and Chennai
31 March 2013 Cities with a population of more than 1 million
September 2014 All urban areas (municipal corporations and municipalities)
31 December 2014 Rest of India.

But now IB ministry says, “it is impossible to implement.”

Difference: DAS vs DTH?



Digital Addressable Cable TV system Direct to Home. (Tata Sky, Dish TV shahruk khan etc)
Set-top box necessary to view channels. Same
The Set Top Box used for DAS cannot be used for DTH service as technologies are different. Same
In DAS service, TV signals reach consumer through the cable network.
So it is local-cable operator->wire->customer’s home->set-topbox->TV.
in DTH service, TV channels are directly received by consumer from satellite using small dish antennas located at the customer premise.
so it is small dish @roof->set-topbox->TV.
DAS will become mandatory by Dec 2014. No cable channel can be served through Analogue format. Not mandatory. It is just a product, if you can afford and you like it, then purchase, else no worries.
DAS cable is a ground distribution network and you may have to change your operator if you move to a different place even within a city. all-India coverage. You can use the same DTH operator even if you move cities. Whatever money you had paid, stays in your account (smart-card.)
keeps working unless cable is broken or damaged. Doesn’t work in bad weather particularly when there is heavy rain and clouds.

What is set top box (STB)?

  • “Set top box” (STB) is a device.
  • It is connected to a television set so the consumer can view encrypted channels of his choice. (using smart card.)
  • The basic function of the set top box is to decrypt the channels and to convert the digital signals into analog mode for viewing on television sets.

Why Jayalalitha is unhappy?

  • In the sidelines of NDC meeting held @New Delhi in Dec 2012, Jayalalitha raised objection about DAS license.
  • Arasu Cable TV Corporation= PSU owned by Tamilnadu State Government.
  • This Arasu has applied for DAS license for Chennai City.
  • But Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (run by the totally awesome Manish Tewari) is not giving the license.
  • You’re not giving license, to protect the monopoly of SunTV network (owned by Maran Family, DMK ties= coalition partner of UPA).
IB ministry @Delhi
  • Sorry we can’t give license because Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has held that central and state governments should not be allowed to enter the “business of broadcasting”.
  • Not just governments but political bodies should also not be allowed to enter the broadcasting sector, according to TRAI order.

By the way, Under Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 it is compulsory for each operator to show (BORING) DD-1, DD-News, DD- Regional (concerned region), DD-Rajya Sabha DD-Sports, DD-Urdu, Gyandarshan and Lok-Sabha to each subscriber on its network.