Aiming to make the indigenous manufacture of set-top boxes (STBs) a financially viable proposition for their manufacturers, the NDA government — following a little nudge from the Prime Minister’s Office — is all set to classify STBs as Telecom Network Equipment, a move that will exempt STBs from various taxes and duties, bringing down prices, which the government hopes to pass on to consumers.
As per government sources, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is all set to issue a notification and recommend it to the finance ministry.
“Once STBs are classified as Telecom Network Equipment, they will get exempted from various kinds of taxes and manufacturers will be able to produce them at a lesser cost. Once their prices come down, we are looking at passing this benefit to the consumers,” an official in the information and broadcasting ministry told The Indian Express.
The matter recently came up for discussion during the ministry’s presentation before the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 23. Modi is learnt to have stressed on the need for indigenisation of various technologies with a twin-objective of saving foreign exchange and creating better business opportunities within the country.
Modi was advised that classifying STBs under telecom network equipment was the first essential step for promoting its manufacture within the country. Sources told The Indian Express that the DoT notification could be out as early as June 30.
Earlier, on June 21, I&B minister Prakash Javadekar had tweeted an invite to Indian manufacturers to produce and provide STBs. On June 24, after meeting the STB manufacturers , he tweeted that the government will work to resolve the issues and hurdles in the indigenisation of digitisation.
As per ministry sources, close to three crore STBs have so far been installed in the first two phases of cable TV digitisation. “Estimates show that we will require around 7-8 crore STBs to complete Phases 3 and 4 of the digitisation process. Currently, most of the STBs are being imported, mainly from China. This has resulted in higher costs. The number of STBs being manufactured within the country is no match for the projected requirements,” a ministry official said.
The STB manufacturers have, for long, been demanding tax incentives.
Interestingly, while domestic manufacturers have been unable to produce the required number of STBs for use within the country, many of them are already exporting their products worldwide.
* The department of telecommunications