The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a draft recommendation on provisions for Internet Protocol TV (IPTV) services. According to the draft, telecom service providers who have the unified access services license (UASL) and the cellular mobile telephony service (CMTS) license can provide IPTV service without requiring any further registration.
The existing licenses of unified access services license (UASL) and cellular mobile telephony service (CMTS) license permit telecom service providers to offer triple play service. Recently, the government had permitted ISPs having net worth of more than Rs 100 crore to provide IPTV services after obtaining permission from the licensor. The question that was being raised time and again in view of the provision of Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act 1995 was whether these operators needed any other regulatory clearances or registration to provide IPTV to their subscribers. As is known, Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act 1995 provides that no person shall operate a cable television network unless he is registered as a cable operator under this act.
According to the draft recommendations, no change in FDI cap should envisaged for provision of IPTV services both by the telecom licensee and Cable TV operators. While providing TV channels through IPTV, telecom licensees shall transmit only such channels in unaltered form for which broadcasters have received uplinking or downlinking permission from the Government of India. In such cases, the responsibility to ensure that content is in accordance with the extant laws, rules, regulations, etc. shall be that of the broadcaster, and telecom licensee will not be held responsible.
It has also been recommended that in case of content other than TV channels from broadcasters, the telecom licensee shall be responsible for observing programme code and advertisement code, and such codes shall be the same as provided in the Cable Television Network (Regulation) Act 1995 and Rules there under.
In addition to this, such licensees will also be bound by various Acts, instructions, directions and guidelines issued by the government from time to time, including the IT Act 2000 to regulate content.
TRAI also recommends that telecom service provider providing IPTV will show only those news channels that have been approved by the I&B Ministry. Before providing IPTV, all telecom licensees or cable operators will have to give a self-certified declaration to the I&B Ministry, DoT and TRAI giving details such as license, registration under which IPTV service is proposed, the start date, the area being covered, details of the network infrastructure, etc.
The uplinking and downlinking guidelines should be amended to enable broadcasters to provide signals to all distributors of TV channels such as operators of cable, multi-system, DTH, HITS and IPTV services.
The issue of provisioning of IPTV services was discussed in detail in TRAI’s position paper released on September 6, 2007, and in the subsequent draft recommendation released on November 28, 2007. Comments were invited from stakeholders on these papers issued by TRAI.