The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has released a consultation paper on issues relating to direct-to-home (DTH) service. In this paper, various regulatory issues arising out of the provision of DTH service have been discussed.
As DTH service increases in importance and spread, its role in providing competition to cable service and offering choice to the consumers would become significant. At the same time there are issues regarding the quality of the service to consumers as well as certain problems being faced by DTH operators and broadcasters.
The consultation paper has highlighted the issues into three categories – Interconnection issues, quality of service standards, and regulatory issues for set-top boxes. There are a number of issues relating to tariffs, both at the wholesale and retail level. The foremost issue is whether there is need for any regulation of DTH tariffs since DTH service is in fact providing some competition to cable television.
Competition provides an excellent method for ensuring the consumer’s interests are protected. Accordingly, regulation has a rationale when the market does not function or the level of competition is inadequate. It has been seen in the recent past that there has been some competition between the two DTH service providers as well as between DTH and cable.
Competitive packages and offers have been made by all the service providers as against the situation just one year back when the consumer had virtually no choice and options. Considering all these developments, it has been decided that these issues should be looked at after some time when the impact of the competition in general, and impact of roll out of the CAS in cable TV in particular can be assessed. Accordingly, the tariff issues have not been posed for consultation at present.
TRAI has, however, sought industry opinion on whether quality of service standards for DTH should be mandated and the details of this approach. TRAI has suggested that the approach being followed for the telecom sector could be introduced for the DTH players. TRAI has also raised the issue interoperability between set-top boxes being provided by different DTH operators.
TRAI has, however, decided against looking into tariffs. “This issue (of tariff) should be looked at after some time when the impact of the competition in general, and impact of roll out of the CAS in cable TV in particular can be assessed,” the regulator said.
At present, apart from Doordarshan, which provides free-to-air channels, there are two other DTH service providers for pay channels – Dish TV and TataSky – while two more have obtained license to commence operation.
TRAI also pointed out that another major issue that should be looked into was interoperability of set-top boxes across different service providers. It has asked stakeholders to give their comments on whether technical interoperability should be retained or whether it should be replaced by commercial interoperability.
TRAI had earlier said that a system of prescribing a tariff for each channel could be looked at for DTH services on the lines of what it has implemented for CAS. Additionally, the regulator has also asked stakeholders to state whether the service providers concerned can voluntarily evolve quality of service standards.