One of the prime things of focus for the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) this year has been the issue of Set-Top Box Interoperability. The telecom regulator has floated consultation paper earlier this year to garner the views of industry stakeholders on the technology and implementation of interoperable Set-Top Box. However, in this paper, Trai’s views have not exactly been met with affirmation. Instead, the DTH operator opposed the Set-Top Box interoperability technology, and it seems that the cable TV operators might also be joining in unison. In a new update, the All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) has requested that Trai first solve the primary concerns related to Set-Top Box interoperability before moving ahead to make any final decisions. AIDCF has remarked, that there are foundational issues with Set-Top Box interoperability which must be solved before deciding on anything. These issued include solution architecture, framework, CAS and SMS registration, security standards, standardising middleware software, collection, and control mechanism of STBs.
Cable TV Operators Against Interoperability
AIDCF also went ahead to say, “We, therefore request Authority to hold the present consultation paper.” The digital cable federation also noted that the combination of compression, encryption, middleware, Conditional Access System (CAS), and EPG is what makes the Set-Top Box capable of delivering the current set of features. As such, any Set-Top Box cannot be 100% interoperable with the same features and services. AIDCF also put forth the thought that the differentiating things that set apart the DPOs offering are based on the Set-Top Box only. The service delivery and the features and services which truly set apart the DPO from the competition are built into the Set-Top Box. This is what drives the value proposition for the customers. Thus by bringing interoperable Set-Top Boxes, the DPOs will be devoid of giving additional interactive services.
Major Problem of E-Waste Generated by Set-Top Boxes
There is another concern with the telecom regulator, which has led to the idea of interoperability, and this has to do with e-waste. As per Trai, there are 54 million DTH Set-Top Boxes lying idles at homes, which is a massive amount of e-waste. A similar number of Set-Top Boxes are expected to be in the cable TV industry as well. However, addressing this concern, AIDCF said that the e-waste is not because of interoperability but because of re-accessibility of STBs. It also said that even though the subscribers are being provided with the Set-Top Boxes on FOC basis, they are not ready to return the boxes.
Issues With Interoperability
AIDCF pointed out that after the merger of D2h and Dish TV are also using non-interoperable Set-Top Boxes since their systems are still different. Also, DD Free Dish and Independent TV are two DPOs who issued non-interoperable Set-Top Boxes to their customers. “Again investment of interoperable STBs would be a burden for Subscribers and would lead to further increase in consumer price for viewing Cable Services,” AIDCF remarked. Further, the association added that the customers themselves are not ready to go for interoperable Set-Top Boxes because they miss out on a lot of features. The cable TV operators also shared the concern that the coming of interoperability would encourage piracy as well.
DTH Ops Also Against Set-Top Box Interoperability
It is worth noting that, on similar lines, DTH Operators like Tata Sky, Airtel Digital TV and the new entrant in the industry Reliance Jio are also opposed to the idea of interoperability. These DTH Operators have expressed various concerns related to security, excessive investment and more.