OTT apps on hybrid STBs must not get access to linear channels and vice versa: TRAI

The authority noted that a sub-standard CAS/SMS renders a distribution network vulnerable to hacking and piracy

e4m by Javed Farooqui
Updated: Jun 17, 2021 9:53 AM

In order to ensure better content security and prevent revenue leakage, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently came out with a set of framework for conditional access system (CAS) and subscriber management system (SMS). The authority noted that a sub-standard CAS/SMS renders a distribution network vulnerable to hacking and piracy.

The regulator has issued Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) (Third Amendment) Regulations, 2021 (1 of 2021) which provides for technical compliance of CAS and SMS. The new framework has been incorporated in schedule IX of the interconnection regulations.

As per the framework, the distribution platform operators (DPOs) have to implement mandatory requirements for a tightly synchronised working of CAS and SMS. Under a CAS, only an authorised receiver/STB can decrypt the broadcast content. Whereas, SMS is a system that stores the subscriber records and details. The salient features are as follows.

Among the mandatory CAS requirements, the framework mandates that the CAS must ensure that the over-the-top (OTT) app does not get access to the linear channels, and the CAS does not get access to channels delivered through OTT platform in case a distributor of television channels has deployed hybrid STBs. The hybrid STBs must comply with all the mandatory requirements for CAS.

DPOs like Tata Sky, Dish TV, Hathway Digital, Siti Networks and DEN Networks have launched hybrid STBs which allows subscribers to access OTT apps as well as linear channels from the same device. The adoption of hybrid boxes is increasing, even as they are a small percentage of the total STBs deployed by the DPOs.

Further, the CAS must not support carriage of a channel with the same name or nomenclature in the distributor’s network served by each headend under more than one LCN, and another channel descriptor. Further, each channel available in CAS shall be uniquely mapped with channels available in SMS.

This means that the same channel cannot be carried on dual LCNs. It is pertinent to note that the TRAI has also warned broadcasters not to carry channels on dual LCNs as many broadcasters particularly those in the news genre were using dual LCN strategy to increase the sampling and viewership of their channels.

Under the regulation, broadcasters have to declare the genre of their channels while the distributors have to place the channels in such a way that the channels of the same genre are placed together.

It further states that upon deactivation of any subscriber from the SMS, all program/services, including all free- to-air (FTA) and pay channels and platform services, shall be denied to that subscriber. However, the DPOs will have to be provided a facility to provide B-mail/scroll messages that enable a consumer to get the information in relation to the recharge/payment of the pending dues.

Further, the CAS should be capable to add/modify channels/bouquets as may be required from time to time. The CAS and SMS should also be able to handle all the channels, made available on a platform, in à la carte mode. Both the systems should have the capability to handle such a number of broadcaster/DPO bouquets, as required by the DPO.

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