One of the best things that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has been working on this year is the Set-Top Box Interoperability. Now the concept and the idea has been in the DTH industry since the last few months, but apparently now that the idea is being vetted by the DTH operators, who are going to be the one implementing the idea, it has not seen the best of the comments. Trai floated the consultation paper on the Set-Top Box interoperability so that it could gain views of the industry stakeholders like the DTH operators, the cable TV operators and the other experts. However, it has not gone as planned as the DTH operators have mostly shared a negative point of view about the technology and pointed out the various hurdles that they would face if the interoperability is to be rolled out. Most of the concerns are related to the security of data and other related features of the interoperable Set-Top Box.
Tata Sky Shares Concerns of Security
Firstly, looking at the Tata Sky’s response to the Trai consultation paper on this matter, the DTH operator has shared that the new interoperable STB should be able to retain the best features of the Set-Top Box which are currently available in the market while offering the interoperability feature. Not only this, but security is also one of the major concerns related to this technology. Currently, the Set-Top Box being offered to the subscribers comes with HDCP, water-marking and other solutions which ensure security. However, this is not possible with the technical solution proposed by the Trai. Also, there is no surety as to how much guarantee the third-party manufacturers will be able to provide in regard to security.
Another point that came up in the comments was more technical and related to transmission. The DTH operators remarked that the compression standards being used by the DTH operators are different and are always changing. As such, it becomes difficult to have a single Set-Top Box for all. There are different compression standards like MPEG2, MPEG4, HEVC and more. Apart from this, there are different processors, memory, speed configurations, encryption and transmission standards as well which come in the way of interoperability.
Dish TV Worried About Costs
Dish TV also shared similar ideas saying that the cost of implementation of an interoperable Set-Top Box would be disproportionately high. Not only that, it urged Trai to look at the new Set-Top Boxes which are coming into the industry and fuse various services like OTT and content and use their own DRM mechanism. All of this presents a new hurdle in Set-Top Box interoperability.
Hathway Supportive of Interoperability
Hathway, on the other hand, had a relatively positive outlook towards Set-Top Box interoperability. It said that there should be provision for Set-Top Box interoperability and there is no such provision of Set-Top Box interoperability in other countries and that India should take the lead in this. But, at the same time, the cable TV operator added that the interests of the various industry stakeholders should also be kept in mind.
Overall, it can be said that before the Set-Top Box interoperability materialises, there are many hurdles in front of Trai. Some of the major hurdles are in the area of security and compatibility. In such a robust broadcasting system like in India, with many nodes like MSOs (Multi System Operators), cable TV providers, DTH providers and more, there are a lot of hurdles that will need to be technologically addressed before Trai proceeds with Set-Top Box Interoperability.