TRAI amends interconnection regulation to tackle piracy, under declaration

The regulator said that the framework is expected to bring several important benefits to the television broadcasting sector as well as the consumers

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Jun 11, 2021 5:54 PM

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has amended the interconnection regulations 2017 to provide for a framework for technical compliance of conditional access system (CAS) and subscriber management system (SMS). The regulation has been amended as the TRAI has received complaints about unauthorised distribution of signals and under-declaration of subscribers by distribution platforms.

The regulator said that the framework is expected to bring several important benefits to the television broadcasting sector as well as the consumers. The operationalisation and oversight of the framework will be carried out through a Testing and Certification Agency, which shall be prescribed by the authority later.

According to TRAI, the framework is the first step to define an indigenous set of specifications in the line of international standards. The framework will improve end-to-end compliance and reduce litigations among the service providers.

A tightly synchronised working of CAS and SMS, as specified by the framework, will enable factual reporting of subscriber base etc. This will reduce the revenue loss to stakeholders on account of erroneous subscription reporting. Better assurance of due revenue, in turn, may encourage the stakeholders to invest for further improvement in quality of content and service thereby benefiting the end consumer.

The framework will usher-in better content security in the distribution value chain. This, in turn, shall give confidence to the global content developer community and will pave way for increased availability of better quality, high-definition content to Indian television viewers.

The regulator noted that even after implementation of the New Regulatory Framework and despite stipulations for transmission of encrypted content, as notified by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB), vide the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995, the authority has received complaints on regular basis from various broadcasters and distribution platform operators (DPOs) about unauthorised distribution of signals.

Complaints have also been received on issues related to support from CAS/SMS providers, under-reporting of subscription, etc. The extant provisions have no prescribed minimum benchmark/criteria for CAS/ SMS for appropriate encryption security and compliance mechanism. Sub-standard CAS and SMS also render the distribution network vulnerable to hacking and content piracy.

Further, the authority also observed that in some cases, the distributors were unable to comply with the New Regulatory Framework within the prescribed time, owing to the constraints of their CAS and SMS systems.

In the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017 (1 of 2017), the regulator has inserted section 4A for compliance of addressable system requirements by the distributors of television channels.

The clause says that every distributor of television channel shall, from such date and after such testing and certification, as may be specified by the Authority by order, deploy such CAS and SMS which conform to the requirements as specified in the newly inserted Schedule IX. The authority will specify a separate timeline for SMS and CAS already deployed before the date of issue of the order referred to in this sub-regulation within which such systems shall get tested and certified to meet the requirements specified in Schedule IX.

If a distributor fails to obtain the certification of the CAS and/or SMS deployed in its network within the stipulated timelines, as specified by the Authority under sub-regulation (1), it shall be liable to pay, by way of financial disincentive, an amount of rupees one thousand per day for default up to thirty days beyond the due date and an additional amount of rupees two thousand per day in case the default continues beyond thirty days from the due date. The financial disincentive levied by the Authority under this sub-regulation shall in no case exceed Rs 200,000.

The TRAI had issued a consultation paper on "Framework for Technical Compliance of Conditional Access System (CAS) and Subscriber Management Systems (SMS) for Broadcasting & Cable services" on 22nd April, 2020. The consultation paper sought comments and suggestions from all stakeholders on the pertinent issues related to deployment of sub-standard CAS and SMS systems and unauthorised distribution of signals/piracy.

In response, the authority received comments from 36 stakeholders from across all segments, such as broadcasters, distributors, technology providers including CAS and SMS vendors and also individual industry observers. Later, Open House Discussion (OHD) on the consultation paper was held on 25th June, 2020 through video conferencing, which was attended by around 220 participants representing wide range of stakeholders from across the country.

The comments of the stakeholders received by the Authority during the consultation process were analysed. In view of the technical nature of the matter, the Authority decided to form a committee comprising of members from CAS and SMS providers, direct to home (DTH) operators, multi-system operators (MSOs), Broadcasters, expert bodies and organizations like Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC), Standardisation Testing and Quality Certification (STQC), Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC), Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur to examine the comments and suggestions and give its recommendations for a minimal framework that addresses the issues raised in the consultation paper.

The committee, after extensive deliberations, recommended to introduce testing and certification regime for CAS and SMS to ensure better conformity to the standards and to improve the customer experience. The committee also recommended oversight mechanism to ensure compliance to the said framework.

The recommendations of the committee were further reviewed by the authority with the broad objectives of maintaining light touch regulation and keeping the requirements minimalistic. In furtherance of the same, the Authority today issued the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) (Third Amendment) Regulations, 2021 (1 of 2021), which provides for a framework for technical compliance of CAS & SMS. The said framework is incorporated as Schedule IX in the Interconnection Regulations, 2017.

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