To avoid the glitches faced in the first and second phases of the cable TV digitisation process, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has turned its attention towards tariff orders once again.
The regulator has released draft tariff orders prescribing standard tariff packages for set top boxes (STBS), Digital Addressable Systems (DAS) and Consumer Premises Equipment (CPE) for DTH and cable TV services and has sought comments from the stakeholders for the same. The stakeholders can send their written comments by April 26, 2013.
One of the prominent points of tariff regarding STBs is that every multi-system operator (MSO) shall compulsorily offer to its subscribers the standard tariff package for set top box specified in the schedule annexed to TRAI’s order. In addition, MSOs will be free to offer alternative tariff packages for set top boxes in accordance with the existing regulatory framework. Subscribers will have the freedom to choose from amongst the alternate tariff packages so offered as well as the standard tariff package specified by the authority.
TRAI has also highlighted the significance of reporting requirement and said, “Every multi-system operator shall report to the authority tariff packages, including all terms and conditions, associated with the supply of set top boxes to the subscribers.”
In order to view the interests, TRAI said, “Consumers can be largely protected through the provision for commercial interoperability of STBs. The commercial interoperability provides an exit option for a subscriber in case he/she wishes to change the operator for any reason.”
Accordingly, in the relevant regulations/ tariff orders of TRAI, it has been mandated that the operators of DAS shall give an option to every subscriber to procure the STB either on outright purchase basis or hire purchase basis or rental basis, or in accordance with the scheme, if any, prescribed by the body.
The standard tariff package has been worked out on the basis of the cost of the set top box at Rs 1,750 and life span of the box, which has been taken as five years. While the residual value has been taken as nil, rental per month based on the cost of the STB on equated monthly installment (EMI) basis is at 15 per cent per annum and 1.25 per cent per month for a period of 60 months.
It may be recalled that TRAI is also managing the carriage fees between the broadcasters and the cable operators. Though Phase II of digitisation is over, broadcasters are concerned over the carriage fees as they still have to pay a huge chunk in order to available of the premium bands.
At the last meeting held three months back, TRAI had suggested that broadcasters sign an agreement with the operators to share the offer of channel packages and carriage fees. The regulatory body suggested that carriage fees of Rs 3-Rs 5 be set per set top box per annum.