The Telecom Regulation Authority of India (TRAI) has issued the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable Services) Interconnection (Fourth Amendment) Regulation 2007, which essentially covers regulatory provisions on interconnection issues relating to DTH services. This was done so that DTH could provide effective competition.
A statement issued by TRAI said that the DTH guidelines and licensing conditions were issued by the Government of India in 2001 and Doordarshan had offered free-to-air DTH services for some time. Subsequently, two DTH operators initiated pay-DTH services. However, it is only in the last one year that these two pay DTH operators could offer popular TV channels and content, and thus gain acceptance among the consumers.
The delay in rolling out more DTH services was the difficulty faced by the broadcasters and the DTH operators in concluding their interconnection agreements on time, and the issue in two such cases had to be resolved by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT). This affected the growth of the sector and also hampered competition because DTH, at present, is the only effective alternative to cable TV.
Therefore, TRAI felt the need to initiate a consultation process on the interconnection issues so that DTH could provide effective competition. Accordingly, a consultation paper covering quality of service (QoS) and interconnection issues for DTH was circulated on March 2 this year. After receiving comments from stakeholders, an open house discussion was later held at Bhubaneshwar on May 18.
The salient features of the Interconnection Amendment Regulations are that the amendments will be effective from December 1 this year. Every broadcaster will publish, within 90 days of these amendments taking effect, their reference interconnect offer (RIO) for the DTH operators, containing technical and commercial terms for interconnection.
The RIO shall contain details such as rates of channels and bouquets, details of discounts, payment terms, security and anti-piracy requirements, subscriber base reports and audit, besides other information. The RIO will be published on the broadcaster’s website and will also be communicated to each DTH operator. RIOs existing, if any, prior to these regulations, will be modified to conform to the RIO now published under these regulations.
If a DTH operator makes a request to a broadcaster to enter into an interconnection agreement based on the published RIO, then the broadcaster will be obliged to do so within 45 days of the request. The broadcasters and DTH operators may also enter into mutual agreements on non-discriminatory basis by deviating from the RIO.
All broadcasters will compulsorily offer all their channels on an a-la-carte basis to the DTH operators. Additionally, they may also offer bouquets, but they will not compel any DTH operator to include the entire bouquet in any package being offered by DTH operators to their subscribers.
In case a DTH operator includes various pay channels of a broadcaster’s bouquet in different DTH packages for its subscribers, then the payment for the bouquet will be made by the DTH operator to the broadcaster based on the highest subscriber base for any pay channel from that bouquet.
The a-la-carte rates of pay channels and the rates of the bouquets offered by the broadcasters to DTH operators shall be so related that the sum of a-la-carte rates of pay channels in a bouquet does not exceed one and half times the bouquet rate; and no a-la-carte rate of a pay channel in a bouquet will be more than three times the average pay channel rate of that bouquet.
TRAI will have the power to intervene and ask any broadcaster to modify its published RIO, on grounds of protecting the interests of consumers or service providers, orderly growth of the sector, or for not being in conformity with these regulations.