The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has sent its recommendations to the Information & Broadcasting Ministry on certain issues relating to DTH service. TRAI had issued a consultation paper on ‘Issues Relating to DTH’ on March 2, 2007, which covered interconnection issues, quality of service issues and other regulatory issues relating to DTH services.
As per TRAI’s recommendations, Clause 7.1 of DTH license agreement requires that the DTH operator must provide a set-top box (STB) which is technically interoperable among different DTH service providers, and that the STB should conform to the standards laid down by the Government from time to time. At present, these standards prescribed by the Government incorporate, among others, MPEG 2 compression format as a requirement for the STB.
Now, due to subsequent technological development, MPEG 4 compression format is available, which results in considerable savings in the bandwidth and transponder requirement. However, a set-top box based on MPEG 2 compression format cannot be used for receiving signals of another DTH operator, who is employing MPEG 4 compression format, which affects the license condition relating to technical interoperability. After considering the need for protecting consumers’ interests and also the difficulties associated with upgrading millions of STBs already sold to subscribers, the Authority has made the following recommendations on the issue of technical interoperability:
The issue of revision of standards for DTH set-top boxes should be taken up by the Government with the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) so that the standards laid down by BIS for STBs are updated for advanced technologies.
Revision of standards should be prospective and should apply to DTH subscribers who are enrolled after six months from the date of such revision. Such revision should not compulsorily require the DTH operators to upgrade the STBs of existing subscribers to conform to revised standards, though they would be free to do so on their own.
The second issue relates to allowing DTH operators to provide signals to cable operators in KU-Band. The existing DTH license conditions permit DTH operators to provide signals in KU-Band only to consumers directly without any other intermediary. The Authority has looked at this issue from the point of maximising competition among different delivery platforms so that the consumer has enough choice.
Further, TRAI has also examined Clause 7.6 of the DTH license conditions, which reads as “The licensee shall provide access to various content providers / channels on a non-discriminatory basis”. This clause is mistaken by some stakeholders to mean “must carry”, that is, the DTH operators must carry all the channels in a non-discriminatory manner when so approached by broadcasters. However, TDSAT in its order dated March 31, 2007 has held that Clause 7.6 of the DTH license agreement does not imply ‘must carry’.
The Authority subsequently after the March 2 issue of consultation paper held an open house discussion in Bhubaneswar on May 18, 2007 on the subject. The I&B Ministry had also sought TRAI’s recommendations on technical interoperability of STBs as well as to examine the possibility of allowing DTH operators to provide signals to cable operators in KU-Band.