Multi system television operators (MSOs) in Delhi and Mumbai are gearing up to achieve complete digitisation in the two cities at the earliest. According to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India December 2 directive, every MSO and the linked local cable operators (LCOs) in the two cities should start providing bills to customers on a pre-paid or post-paid basis, as chosen by the subscriber.
S N Sharma, secretary, MSO Alliance, and chief executive officer, Den Networks, said, "This move is important as it will ensure there are no additional or random charges levied. Our viewers will thus, pay only for what they watch and they must insist on a bill from their LCO or MSO at the time of monthly payment."
This move comes after the MSOs successfully completed the seeding of set-top boxes and collection of customer application forms (which include the preferred channel packages) in these cities.
While MSOs like Den Networks plan to start giving out bills from December (for November), others like InCable prefer a phased rollout of the billing system.
Nagesh Chhabaria, CEO, InCable, said, "We shall start with Delhi from the first week of January. Depending on the experience of the first monthly cycle of billing in Delhi, we shall adapt the system in Mumbai, where we have more subscribers."
The MSO Alliance has also taken upon itself the task to spread awareness about this move through print and cable television advertisements about it.
TRAI, MSOs are to give every subscriber the bill for charges due and payable each month or for any other agreed period. The bill should be itemised, giving details of the name and price of channels in the bouquet (package), the service tax and the entertainment tax levied. The onus is on the MSOs and LCOs to make sure the bill reaches the customers on time and to maintain co-ordination and ensure the a proper receipt is given to the customer on payment.
Chhabaria, however, said the first cycle will allow MSOs to gauge the ground realities. "We have installed the bill generation software and we will be sending the bills to the LCOs. They only have to take a printout and deliver it to the subscribers in their area. What remains to be seen is their (LCO's) agility on the ground."
Den Networks announced recently that it would give the customers 15 days to make the payment and defaulters would have to pay a simple interest on the number of days the bill was overdue. According to regulations set by Trai, the MSOs can charge a simple interest of 12 per cent a year in case the customers fail to pay up in the 15 day period.
Additionally, MSOs are to give compliance report by December 31 for Delhi, Greater Mumbai and the Kolkata metropolitan area.