Why Trai Must Bring Interoperable Set-Top Boxes For DTH Subscribers

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is all set to bring Interoperability into Set-Top Boxes which will change things for subscribers and DTH companies

Highlights
  • Interoperable STBs will not be exclusive to one DTH operator
  • Trai is currently testing STB interoperability technology
  • The Interoperable STBs would bring level playing field in the DTH industry

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is not only responsible for regulating the DTH and the telecom industry but sometimes the regulations which the authority introduced act as a tipping scale for the innovation that actually drives the industry forward. This year, Trai has made a lot of changes in the DTH industry which has drastically affected the subscribers, and the top one of them happens to be the new Trai tariff regime which changes how the DTH services are priced in the industry. However, now that the dust from the previous regulatory changes has settled down, there are other new changes that Trai is eyeing in the coming months, and a major one of them happens to be of Set-Top Box Interoperability. A lot of the subscribers might be aware of the STB interoperable technology and what it entails, but since there is nothing solid as of yet, a lot of you might be totally unaware of it. The introduction of such technologically enabled STBs will not only help the subscribers, but it would also bring some much-needed change in the industry as well. Here is how the STB Interoperability would change the DTH industry scene and what effect it would bring.

trai-interoperabiity-stbs-dth

What Exactly Is Set-Top Box Interoperability?

To understand the implications and the effects that the technology would bring, firstly, it is important to see what interoperability will do on the ground level. Currently, the DTH industry is filled with DTH operators and cable TV operators who offer specific Set-Top Boxes to their subscribers. These Set-Top Boxes are made such that they only work with a particular DTH operator. So for example, if you have a Tata Sky connection, and you get a Tata Sky Set-Top Box with your subscription, then that particular Set-Top Box will not work with any other DTH operator. However, Set-Top Box Interoperability would bring STBs which would be usable on any DTH connection, regardless of which operator the user is subscribed to.

How Will It Effect the Subscribers?

Now the first question that might come up in your mind is that how will Set-Top Box Interoperability help the consumers. The answer to this question lies in the flexibility and the choice that the consumers will enjoy once Set-Top Box Interoperability comes into play. Currently, the subscribers who a particular DTH or cable TV connection, have a high overhead cost to pay to a new DTH operator if they want to switch connections. In case you want to change your DTH operator, then firstly you would have to spend around Rs 1,500 to get a new HD Set-Top Box upfront before you change your DTH operator. This restricts the subscribers from changing their DTH operator as per their needs instantly.

The Effect on DTH Operators

For the DTH operators, this would mean a totally different thing. In the current scenario of the DTH industry, if the subscribers have to switch up their DTH operator, then they face a moat in the form of Set-Top Box costs. Once the industry is penetrated by the Interoperable STBs, this moat will be done with and the DTH operators offering truly good services will see traction from the consumers as the subscribers will not be afraid to switch up their DTH connections for the cost of buying a new Set-Top Box, every time they want to change their DTH operator. This way, the interoperability of Set-Top Boxes would bring a level playing field for the DTH operators. As per the Trai notification on this matter, the interoperability of Set-Top Boxes is currently under testing, and Trai is yet to finalise a method that it would use to deploy these interoperable STBs. But, as per the sector regulator’s words, the subscribers would be able to find interoperable STBs next year.

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Arpit spends his day closely following the telecom and tech industry. A music connoisseur and a night owl, he also takes a deep interest in the Indian technology start-up scene and spends rest of his time spilling poetry and stories on paper.

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