Wednesday, March 21, 2007

CAS The real truth, a customers perspective

All of us have read so much about CAS (Conditional Access System), which has been thrust down the throats of citizens in the metros in India. The reasons for this implementation was because of

  1. Under reporting of connection thus tax evasion by the cable wallah, MSO etc,
  2. Another reason was it was ‘better technology’ whatever that means as you shall see.

Regarding the first point when we pay are dues honestly to the cable wallah, why are we being penalized for ‘under reporting’ on his part. The cost of CAS Set Top Boxes and its implementation should have been borne by the cable wallah or MSO or the govt. but no since the local citizen does not have a lobby, we lost. On the second point shouldn’t the customer have a choice what he wants, better technology or whatever?

It was my turn to ‘get it’ from 31st Dec 2006, but not unexpectedly channels went of the air on 31st Dec sometime in the morning. This clearly showed the mentality of the people involved, trying to pressurize viewers in this crude way. Thus started my travails of CAS J. I took two tv connections of Indusind Media & Communication (Mumbai) thru Rohit Vision the local franchise in Mahim Mumbai.

Knowing the quality of service of this cable wallah as I had suffered for three years with my Sify ‘Broadband’ service of which he is also provides in my area (see my Sify suffering article in this blog). I had decided to opt for DTH but I wanted it to be a coordinated effort with the rest of my building mates as I wished to go in for a community dish antenna in my building. To cut a long story short, there was a general consensus in my building, that we try CAS ‘for a few months’ then decide whether to go in for DTH. All of us missed out that a la carte selection of channels required us to pay for FOUR MONTHS at a time, as the different bouquets did not have all the required channels we were compelled to go for a la carte. A mix & match was not allowed then. It is now. ie: you can select a bouquet which is a best fit and then select those channels which are not there in bouquet. That was my first mistake that I got talked into this even in spite of my experience with the QOS (Quality Of Service) from my cable wallah. As I know his capability of handling ‘advanced technologies’ is like asking ‘Flintstones’ of comic book fame to launch a satellite. The only sign of evolution in them is that they have learnt to be polite where as before they were absolute ‘topori’.

Anyway the two STB’s were installed on the 6th of Jan 2007 and the picture quality was impressive, but the sound was mono. At this time the signals were not encrypted hence you could watch all the channels just like the old days. Around the end of Jan we gave our channels selections and the encryption of channels started & all hell broke loose. We now see Flintstones at work :)

Let me enumerate the problems faced:

Problem 1

First point I would like to make is that I have not received ANY RECEIPT YET for my cheque payments for the STB deposits or for the four-month rent for FTA or pay channels. The cheques for the deposits were collected on 7-Jan-07 for both CAN’s (Customer Account Number) & were cleared on 10 & 11 of Jan-07.

The cheques for the channel rent and STB & FTA rents for four months were collected on 28-Jan-07 & were cleared on 3 Feb-07. So there has been ample time to give customers their receipts. When I ask my cable wallah I am told that receipts have to come from Indusind Media & when I ask on the toll free number I am told very casually ‘ask your cable wallah’, is this ignorance on their part or is this part of company policy? According to TRAI advertisements in the media we should be given receipts for the payments made, so why this delay? I think the ploy here is when there no receipts issued they can fudge the dates (especially true for people who have paid in cash) of when the STB’s were installed so when they return the customers deposits they can also fudge the amount returned which is dependent on the date of installation. Clever chap’s isn’t it!

Problem 2

· When I subscribed, I was specifically told that I could choose the language for the channels, which had been dubbed in local languages. There is no sign of this till date in spite of many complaints. This is true for both CAN’s. eg. Cartoon Network sometimes comes in Tamil or Hindi ! In fact on 4-3-07 when I wanted to watch Harry Potter movie on Cartoon Network, I find the sound is in Tamil. I was told by one of the call centers guys that this is a technical problem (really!!!!) but no word on when it going to be solved as this was happening even before CAS was introduced.

· On 4-3-07 I found that for half a day HBO had gone off the air!!! But appeared again later in the day, also, I find that almost all channels tended to freeze.

Problem 3

On my second Tv

· I get a blank screen for -

NDTV 24x7,
Etv Marathi &
Zee Tv.

Even though I had selected these channels. I have made around 6 complaints to their toll free numbers and a visit to Rohit Vision, all I get is dubious reasons or promises, which have not been kept. Incidentally Indusind Media & Rohit Vision staff is oblivious to the fact that ETV Marathi is FTA in Maharashtra (Press Release No. 109/2006 dated 15-11-2006) as on 5-Feb-07.

Also the channels which are visible on this Tv is basically useless in the because the pictures freeze and you also see the indigital logo super imposed on the screen, so you can say this tv can be viewed only after 1900 hrs with less freezing.

On 4-3-07 I got a shock that except for National Geographic & Discovery ALL CHANNELS were off the air I spoke to ‘Rahul’ on the toll free number who tried some hit & miss tricks which all failed and as usual I was told that ‘my complaint will be forwarded to the right people’. He also told me that the freezing is a network problem and that this would be referred to my cable operator (passing the buck?),

But why is this happening ONLY AFTER the encryption started? Before that, things were fine and no one has any explanation why does the freezing decrease in the evenings when there should be MORE load on the network. Please note this does not seem to affect others very much in my building, who are on the same network. From my diagnosis since the freezing happens after the encryption started it means that this adds a lot of ‘overheads’ on the cable network which to put it politely, is primitive. What can you expect when it is ‘unstructured’ & runs over treetops & terrace tops. This was ok when the signals were analogue not when its digital.

Problem 4

Now the input coming from the STB goes into the video socket, what this means is that, If you have a Tv which has advanced features like

Individual volume settings for channels

Maximum volume setting for channels or

Volume settings, which take care of blaring of sound when the ads or music starts. Such features are rendered useless..

Problem 5

Also there was a lot big talk of there being

Parental Control, nothing of that sort exists

Another promise was movie on demand that too does not exist. Nor does my cable operator know what it’s all about J

Incidentally these digital STB’s being distributed are MPEG 2 technology so you can guess the vintage of this so called ‘advanced technology’.

When I have rung up their toll free number I have spoken to people by the names (as given by them) Anand, Ashok, Tahir, Sayeed Arbaaz & Rajan

Here are some of the ‘reasons’ given by them.

There is a technical problem.

Server is down.

That channel is distributed by ‘so & so company’ which is having a problem, hence your problem (passing the buck)

Sir, we will call you back in ‘FIVE MINUTES” but their five minutes never seem to get over. I am still waiting.

We will send some one to your place that has so far never materialized.

Our head office tel no. is 28248345 & 28248300 ‘Please contact them’, for the first number you get an error message!!!

O! that’s a cable problem, Please contact your cable operator

To say the least, I am utterly disappointed & disgusted by what is happening in spite of making all the payments for four months (all cheques have been encashed), I cannot view what I have paid for. I have even been told that one of the forms with the channel selection had not reached their office; I am quite shocked by the type of service meted out to paying customers, which is far removed from all the hype & gas generated in the media about CAS and its so called benefits. I am actually coming round to the opinion that I made a BIG MISTAKE in being prompt in my payments. I feel totally cheated. I had written to Sanjay Kamat who I was told is chief of customer care with Indusind Media & Communication (Mumbai)( ) on 5-2-07 and again on 12-2-07 but to no avail. BTW I get the read receipt from these people but no courtesy of a reply much less solving the problem.

On 16-3-07 I did some troubleshooting & found the cause for some of my problems but everything is still not what it should be. I have now decided to go in for a DTH connection from Tata Sky very soon. Incidentally I am still waiting for my receipts for the payments made.

On 21-3-07 I am pleasantly surprised to find that the channels I have opted for are clearly visible (lets see for how long), that means all those amateurish excuses made all these days were all lies, delaying tactics or plain ignorance. This goes to prove that the source of the problem was outside my house (probably changed some main cables or installed/replaced more powerful repeaters).

Others in my colony tell me that some of their payments have still not been collected; another case where a person asked only for ‘ZEE Tv’ gets all channels even though she has not opted for them. Another person who has disconnected one connection of CAS has been told ‘The set top box is now yours, keep it’ even though the person has taken it on rent. No word of returning the deposit. Also no one I meet in my colony seems to have got their receipts for the payments made. I guess the mind set of the people involved became very clear to the citizens in the CAS areas when the channels went of the air on 31st Dec 2006 in the morning itself, instead of midnight. This crude stunt was only to get people to go in for the STB’s. For people who seemed in an indecent haste to implement CAS, this company seems to be having an inordinately long ‘teething problems’. With all this happening I feel that this introduction of CAS was hurried thru when the infrastructure was not in place nor is any one interested in providing genuine service, it looks more like the intention was only to unload the STB’s on the hapless citizens, which was in their inventory. In spite of pious proclamation made in the media to the contrary. Frankly any business model, which has the cable operator in the supply chain, is doomed to failure or immense dissatisfaction for the customer (read my reviews on Sify & Tata Indicom broadband). CAS is ALL GAS.

All I can say to people who will be unfortunate to be in areas, which will go in for CAS, in future, is opt for other technology platforms eg DTH. IPTV. They too have their drawbacks & you could also have bad experiences with their service providers too but there is competition on those platforms only problems is that on DTH platforms there is no portability in their STB’s (as of now) this is something that TRAI should deal with right now before it inconveniences more people.


Anonymous said...

Wow really comprehensive Thanx

Alpana Mandal said...

I just went in for a Set Top Box a week back (although in my area, CAS will only be in effect from June). But contrary to what i'm reading, the last one week has been very good TV viewing experience. My STB is also from the In guys. The channels have DVD quality pictures and sound. I still don't have to choose any bouquet yet (that'll start from June) so until then I get to watch all channels the cable waala provides in the regular monthly rental. But its good to know of the possible issues and i'll be wary of that, expecially when I'll need to choose channel bouquets and language preferences.

BTW, i think the cable operators are gonna try to be very good in their service now that Tata Sky is here. My cable waala is noticably worried about losing his customer base and that fear of competition is good enough for us consumers to get good quality service.

I'll add some more comments here when its my turn to choose channels on CAS.

Good review, as always.

socrates said...

Thanks, in my the cable wallah seems to be least intrested whether we stay on or go away as customers (mentioned in my Sify experience, makes one wonder what business model he follows :)

Anonymous said...

Man, I didn't say something on mouthshut "I want to get rid of cablewallas", I just hope u migrate to DTH as soon as possible.... 310 is not a much bigger amount... why do people go for cas when u r already tired with cable operators, they should be kicked out of this industry ( unprofessionalism and dishonesty).
make DTH ur future and get rid of trouble.


Anonymous said...

INCabble SUCKS!!!!!!!!!!! STAY AWAY- CAS or NOt!!!!!The people are RUDE!!! That includes Sanjay Kamat who is supposed to be head of Customer Service. I doubt he knows to spell the word!. They can't go one day without disrupting service on some pretext or other. So my advice - STAY AWAY. Get TATA SKY instead.