Broadcasters, DTH operators divided over need for KYC of Set Top Boxes

TRAI had sought comments from stakeholders regarding the need for Know Your Customers for Set Top Boxes on July 19  

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Published: Aug 23, 2019 6:50 PM  | 6 min read

The Telecom Regulatory Authority Of India had issued a consultation paper on July 19 seeking comments from stakeholders on whether or not there is a need for Know Your Customer for Set Top Boxes in DTH services. The authority was seeking comments after receiving a letter from the Ministry Of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) dated December 27, 2018.

The letter requested TRAI to give its “recommendations on desirability or otherwise of Know Your Customer (KYC) for Set Top Boxes, in DTH Services and, if desirable, then the process for the same.” The concern was to restrict smuggling of DTH equipment illegally to other countries.

As per MIB’s letter to TRAI, it had put together certain safeguards which included, “The DTH equipment may be sold to the customers only after filling of KYC form by them and verification done according to Aadhaar Card and in mobiles, the location-based services (LBS) needs to be made active in DTH set top boxes to check their location in accordance with customer ID/Card ID.”

Broadcasters and DTH operators have now commented on the paper and they seem divided in their recommendations. While broadcasters believe there should be KYC in place, DTH operators feel there is no need for the same.

The Indian Broadcasting Federation commented on the consultation paper saying, “We are of the view that there is an absolute and an imminent need for introduction and proper enforcement of meaningful KYC or e-KYC stipulations of DTH STBs. This is necessary to inter-alia curb smuggling of DTH STBs outside of India and to bring in some level of threshold checks to counter the menace of piracy.”

The federation feels that DTH STBs get rampantly smuggled to territories outside of India where they get used for illegal and unauthorized reception and/or retransmission of signals of channels. Due to such piracy, broadcasters face huge / irreparable revenue losses. Hence, there is a need for mandating KYC or e-KYC for DTH STBs to avoid smuggling of STBs overseas. DTH platforms in India are permitted to have subscribers only within the territory of India however, numerous unauthorised STBs of Indian DTH operators are reported to be active and functioning beyond the Indian Territory due to the satellite footprints overspill.

 ABP News Network commented on TRAI’s paper saying, “Filing of KYC form and verification of Aadhar card QR Code or Aadhar virtual ID along with use of an alternate ID may be mandatory for any customer purchasing DTH equipment. The form should contain name, DOB, Address and Identification Card in the ID Card presented. In order to check location in accordance with customer ID/Card ID, location based services need to be made active in DTH Set Top Boxes with verification during installation. Periodic check-ins which may range to yearly basis to be done on a small sample sizes to ensure location compliance of STB.” The network also emphasised on taking measures to ensure that the KYC details of customers aren’t vulnerable to hackers.

Sony Pictures Networks also feels that there is an urgent and impending need for introduction and proper enforcement of meaningful KYC or e-KYC stipulation of STBs. Apart from curbing smuggling of DTH STBs outside India, the network spoke about the need for some level of threshold checks to counter the menace of rampant piracy.

Times Network too believes KYC of DTH STBs are the need of the hour and "the KYC process should be designed in such a way that it is driven by technology and causes minimum disturbance to the users while at the same time achieves its desired purpose. If it is too cumbersome, it may deviate a part of subscriber to other modes like Cable etc. where the KYC norms are not applied, thereby affecting the DTH business prospects in India,” the network said in its response.

But DTH operators don’t feel there is any need for KYC when Consumer Application Form suffices for it. Tata Sky in its comments mentioned that MIB’s concern about restricting smuggling of DTH equipment illegally to other countries does not get addressed by KYC. Therefore they urged the authority to carry on with the existing regulations and not modify it. As for location-based services (LBS) on STBs, Tata Sky commented, “Developing and deploying of STBs fitted with LBS solution would make the box expensive and would add to the cost borne by the subscribers. Also, there will be several cases of non-receipt of signals on account of equipment malfunction or other reasons and not necessarily due to the STB having been smuggled out,” the comments stated. The DTH operator also pointed out about a proposal in 2017 for the installation of chips in STBs to capture viewing pattern of consumers which was mooted by MIB. Privacy concerns were raised at that time. Implementing of LBS solution relates to tracking of STB and can easily be construed as tracking of citizens. Tata Sky feels this could lead to a controversy.

Dish TV too believes that there is neither any need nor any valid occasion for prescription of KYC of DTH Set Top Boxes. “We are of the strong opinion that initial KYC done by the Company is adequate enough and no further KYC is required thereafter. For the purpose of the KYC verification process, any Government ID provided by the Subscriber or any mobile number provided by the subscribers to the DTH operators as a registered mobile number, for the reason that the same is already KYC verified by the telecom operators, should be treated as sufficient enough for fulfilment of KYC process by the DTH operators,” it said.

Dish TV also asserted that the periodic physical premise verification to account for the already installed STB’s is not feasible as the same would entail a huge of the manpower to be deployed in the market which would require huge amount to be spent by the DTH operators. Under the current competitive scenario where DTH operators are already incurring huge cost with long ROI period, imposition of any additional cost would only be detrimental to the entire industry.

The consultation paper is still on for counter comments till September 2, 2019.




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