Digitisation of TVs: Big biz opportunity for STB makers

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By Shweta Dhadiwal

Going completely digital is on the to-do list of the television industry, but turning this wish list into reality is subject to many factors–government regulations being the most important one. The Indian television market is large but fragmented. Only 20 per cent of television broadcasting is digital; so converting the remaining 80 per cent, which is still analogue, presents a big business opportunity for semiconductor companies, set top box manufacturers and broadcasters.

For successful digital migration, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) suggested that strong communication programmes are required to explain the benefits of digitisation. There should also be some benefits/incentives to support the move to digitisation and penalties for lack of compliance with digitisation time lines. “If the government announces complete analogue switch-off across India with a deadline, that itself will act as a major stimulant towards digitalisation process,” explains Amit Kharabanda, executive director, MyBox.

Thomas Roh, director for sales and marketing, Arion Technology, shares, “The audio and video quality is the biggest challenge in analogue TV. Multi-channels from digital DTH operators and the lowering of the cost of digital STBs are required for people to move from analogue to digital.”

The amount and quality of data transmitted over the digital medium is much higher and better than in analogue. With digital television, it is possible to provide on-demand content, triple play and many more value added services. And India, which has a large number of regional channels, will help in creating a huge market drive for basic set top boxes, high definition boxes and IP TV STBs.

Viewers of analogue TV are non-trackable, with no accountability,” adds Kharabanda. With digitisation, it is easy to track the customers and their usage. It can benefit the entire ecosystem. The government and broadcasters can benefit from the traceability factor and get their share of revenue. Digital content is encrypted before transmission and decrypted at the viewing end through a set top box.

Current STB market

According to one of the estimates by TRAI, around 3000-4000 multi-system operators (MSO) are currently operating in the Indian market. The local cable operator (LCO) gets a decrypted bundled feed consisting of multiple channels from MSOs who downlink the broadcasters’ signal. There are about 60,000 operators providing services to a total of about 68 million subscribers, reports TRAI.

India has the world’s third largest paid TV subscriber base with the number crossing 100 million. The process of digitisation is expected to pick up in the coming years.The Indian DTH market is growing fast with nearly 25 million DTH subscribers. Overall, it is estimated that in the next five years or so, homes with pay TV would cross 115 million.

STB semiconductor market

A recent report from In-Stat states that complex, multifunction consumer electronic devices will drive MPEG IC revenue to US$ 4.5 billion by 2014. The semiconductor vendors are announcing products with higher levels of integration than before.

STMicroelectronics, Trident Microsystems (former NXP Semiconductors) and Broadcom are leading STB IC providers. STMicroelectronics’ solutions are widely used in standard definition as well as high definition boxes, whereas Broadcom provides solutions for satellite front end receivers. STB IC vendors are tying up with DTH providers to promote their STB solutions. Following Broadcom’s tieup with Bharti Airtel, STMicroelectronics signed an agreement with DishTV to provide SD and HD STB solutions.

 

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