While the television industry, more specifically the DTH and Cable service providers were waiting for the dust to settle on the very hectic and seemingly unnecessary Tariff Regime that was introduced in February, TRAI has turned out to be much like a gift that keeps on giving. While their intentions may be in the right place their decisions have proven to be a stress not only for these service providers but for the broadcasters and most importantly the consumers. While they are still waiting for their new tariff regime to turn successful, they’ve constantly kept making some changes or additions to it.
Now, when it looks like things have just about begin to settle, TRAI has already begun discussions, to put it in a way, about capping the channel offerings for DTH and the possibility of interoperable STBs.

Firstly, with respect to the capping the channel offerings, TRAI has capped the total number of platform services to 3% of the total channel carrying capacity of the DTH player, subject to a maximum of 15 such channels. To speak more clearly, if a DTH company offers 500 channels for viewing, they can only have a maximum of 15 of their own channels on their network. At present, Tata Sky alone has over 30 platform services, while Airtel Digital TV and Dish TV also have much more than 15 services. This just seems like a bad decision overall mainly because such DTH companies provide pan-India services and need to cater to customers of varied tastes and languages. Besides this TRAI also recommended them to have exclusive content on their channels, which shall not be shared with any other platforms. These recommendations are only for the DTG services.

Secondly, TRAI has also initiated a consultation process on interoperability of set-top boxes (STBs) for digital TV broadcasting services. They have sought views on it with suggestions on most optimal and cost-effective solutions. They want the interoperability done with the sense that the same STB could be used on both Cable and DTH platforms. Besides this they have also discussed whether STBs should be available in the open market. While the idea may sound nice, it may be technically hard to do as there is a vast difference in the use of technology. While doing this may reduce the e-waste, it just seems a very complicated decision. Although, the smart card-based solution has been successfully tested in lab conditions using separate instances of conditional access system (CAS) developed by C-DoT. the field testing of the same is yet to be concluded.

We’ll just have to wait and see what happens next. I just hope things don’t tangle up even more now.

By – Amul Vikas Mohan

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