Under a 'Tariff Order,' (TO) issued today, TRAI prescribed for interoperability of Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) or Set Top Box (STB) offered by DTH operators to their subscribers. This will make it easier for consumers to migrate from one Direct-To-Home (DTH) service provider to another while also encouraging transparency in charges levied by operators. Currently, if a subscriber wishes to migrate from one DTH operator to another, he has to invest again in buying a new set top box.
Under the new framework for 'commercial interoperability' of CPEs, an exit option will be provided to the subscribers in case they wish to avail services from another DTH operator for any reason. TRAI, which is the regulator for the broadcasting sector, also observed that there is a "lack of transparency" in various schemes offered by the DTH operators. Listing the salient features of the new order, TRAI said that it mandates transparent declaration of installation and activation charges by DTH operators which shall not exceed Rs 450.
DTH operators also have to mandatorily offer an outright purchase scheme called 'Standard Scheme' for all types of CPEs on a standalone basis, it added. DTH operators may offer additional schemes including bundled schemes and rental schemes, TRAI said. In rental schemes, the operators can charge a specified one-time interest-free refundable security deposit, installation and activation charges from the subscriber during enrolment followed by specified monthly rental charges, TRAI said. No repair and service charges are applicable for such subscribers.
This is a much-needed step in the right direction. Many subscribers are currently stuck with their DTH service providers simply because they have invested in buying expensive set-top boxes and do not wish to re-invest in buying new ones with the new service provider. This will facilitate the reuse of such set-top boxes and prevent them from turning into junk.
Also many DTH providers cheat subscribers by making them pay for the set-top boxes while buying but keep the ownership of STBs with themselves and charge the subscriber every time when servicing is required and also collect the STBs back in the event of disconnection without refunding any money to the subscriber. The operators then refurbish the STBs and sell them to new users and earn again from the resale. With this tariff order the operators will only be able to charge in one way, either by outright sale of STBs to the subscriber or by collecting refundable security deposit and monthly rental which also covers the servicing of equipment.