New Delhi: The much-trumpeted digitalisation of Cable TV services in four metros will now have to wait for four months beyond July 1, when it was originally scheduled to be introduced.

The decision to defer the plan for switchover from analogue to digitalised signals was announced by the government today as it was found that the metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata were not ready for it.

“The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has decided to modify the 30th June deadline for a complete switch over to October 31, 2012,” a statement issued by the I&B ministry today said.

“All the TRAI regulations for Digital Addressable System will come into effect from 1st November, 2012,” the statement added.

It said that the assessment of ground realities, compelled the Ministry of I&B to set a new deadline which would now be monitored more vigorously.

Digitalisation of the cable services in the entire country by December 2014 is one of the ambitious tasks that the I&B ministry has set for itself and the first step towards achieving this goal was its implementation in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai by June 30.

Installing Set Top Boxes (STBs) in each cable viewing household is a precondition for Digitalisation and as per official sources even a fortnight before the June 30, it was estimated that only 30 per cent of households had acquired STBs.

Upset with the fact that its July 30 deadline had not been followed, the ministry in its statement today said that Multi System Operators (MSOs), Local Cable operators (LCOs) or other stakeholders could face action if they don’t match the new schedule.

“The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting will issue warning letters to those going slow on their written commitments. Needless to add that both, the Ministry of I&B and TRAI, will take action under the provisions of the Cable Act, wherever and whenever necessary,” the statement said.

The ministry said that it is “imperative that the modified target deadline is set with strict benchmarks to ensure that no complacency sets-in in the system and the new target date is achieved collectively by all the stakeholders.”

Officials said that the I&B ministry had the power to suspend or revoke the registration of Local cable operators (LCOs) or Multi System Operators (MSOs) if they violated one or more terms and conditions of registration which were mandatory under Digitalisation.

“While the Ministry has agreed to postpone the date for four Metros, it also has the option of taking penal action against stakeholders who do not take the required steps to Digitalise the cable services in the coming days,” a senior official said.

In its statement the I&B ministry also explained the compulsions that had forced it to set a new date for Cable Digitalisation.

“Regulations on Tariff and Interconnection were issued by TRAI only on April 30, 2012 instead of being issued in January, 2012, as expected.

The Quality of Service Regulations and the Consumer Complaint Redressal Regulations were issued on May 14, 2012 by TRAI,” the ministry said in its statement.

The I&B statement explained that as per regulations, every Broadcaster and MSO was required to publish its Reference Interconnect Offers (RIOs) within 30 days of issue of the Regulation.

Another 30 days are required for negotiations between Broadcasters and MSOs. Thereafter, the MSOs and LCOs arrive at agreements which enable the consumers to have a clear indication of the terms and conditions for installing Set Top Boxes and the prices of channels on an a-la-carte as well as on a bouquet basis.

The I&B statement said that another TRAI order had mandated that every MSO or its linked Cable Operator has to put in place a Consumer Complaint Redressal System consisting of a complaint centre with toll free consumer care number, web based complaint monitoring system and other features.

“Both these orders of TRAI have not yet been ubstantially implemented. As a result of this, the installation of Set Top Boxes has not picked up necessary pace for the completion of the process of digitalisation by June 30, 2012,” the ministry said.