The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has extended the deadline to receive comments on the consultation paper that it issued on "Entry Level Net Worth requirement of Multi-system Operators in Cable TV services". As per the new update, now the stakeholders have till May 15 to send their comments. Previously, the regulator had kept the date as May 8 for inviting comments on the same, but on the request of stakeholders who sought more time to send their comments, Trai has now extended the deadline to May 15.
Deliberation on Whether MSOs Should Have a Net Worth Entry Bar
The sector regulator said in its release, "In view of this, it has been decided to extend the last date for submission of written comments up to May 15 15, 2019, and counter comments by May 22, 2019. No further request for an extension would be entertained." It is worth noting that Trai had issued the consultation paper on the entry level net worth requirement of MSOs in Cable TV services on April 9 2019. Trai had issued the consultation paper on the issue because the Ministry of Broadcasting (MIB) had asked the regulator about an appropriate fixated entry level net worth of MSOs for operationalising cable TV digitisation across the industry.
The consultation paper floated by Trai was done to answer the question, whether or not there is a need to fix an entry level net worth for MSOs, and if yes, then what should be the value of the net worth at the time of the registration. Not only this, but the paper also goes on to seek comments on what documents and methods should be used to evaluate the net worth of an MSO applicant in case a minimum value is set as entry bar.
MSOs Currently Not Required to Pay Any Additional Fees
According to the current rules, the MIB lays down the minimum entry level net worth requirement for broadcasters and Head-end In The Sky (HITS) operators. It is different for MSOs however, since they have no entry level net worth requirement or any entry fee at the time of award of registration. The MSOs are only required to pay a processing fee of one lakh rupees and nothing more.
The Cable Television Networks Rules, 1994 was amended by issuing Cable Television Networks (Amendment) Rules, 2012 on April 28, 2012, as Digital Addressable System (DAS) came into the picture. According to this, MSOs operating in DAS areas are mandated to seek necessary permission from MIB in addition to registration as a cable operator.
Trai in its data has stated that currently there are 1471 registered MSOs and more than 60,000 local cable operators (LCOs) exist in the country although not all MSOs are operational. The MIB data presently highlights that there are 1,143 operational MSOs. The data has also clarified that in the period between 2012 and 2018 the number of operational MSOs among the total registered ones increased.