Out of the many issues that have been circling in the DTH industry, something that has not been heard of since the last few weeks is DTH interoperability. While other major issues in the DTH industry have been making the headlines, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has not forgotten about the issue of DTH Set-Top Box interoperability and has been working on that front behind the scenes. Now, Trai has issued a new release on the matter which brings good news for the subscribers denoting progress on this front. In this new update, Trai has said that it has floated a new consultation paper on interoperable Set-Top Box for digital TV broadcasting services. This new consultation paper will seek to invite comments from the industry stakeholders about what the best technical implementation could be for accomplishing interoperability of Set-Top Boxes in the DTH industry. It is worth noting that DTH interoperability will allow the subscribers of one DTH operator, using a specific Set-Top Box with another DTH operator’s connection. Currently, this is not possible in the DTH industry.
Testing for Interoperability Successfully Completed in Lab Conditions
Following the timeline which Trai has traced on the matter of Set-Top Box interoperability, we get to know that back in 2016, the sector regulator had floated a pre-consultation in this matter during April 2016 Thereafter, a consultation note on solution architecture developed by C-DoT for the technical interoperable Set-Top Box was issued during August 2017. Now, as per the latest release from Trai, the smart card based solution has been successfully tested in lab conditions, “using separate instances of CAS developed by C-DoT. However, the field testing with third-party CAS solution is still to be conducted with different industry stakeholders.” Further, adding to this, the regulator said that “Trai has been taking various measures to achieve the Set-Top box interoperability including the stakeholders' meetings/ discussions. The Authority also engaged with various technology companies in the broadcasting technology space for information exchange.”
Set-Top Box Interoperability to Restore Competition in DTH Industry
The subscribers buying a DTH Set-Top Box right now, have to choose a specific DTH operator for their services and have to buy a Set-Top Box from the DTH operator only. Now, this Set-Top Box is configured such that it is exclusive to the DTH operator. Meaning that if the subscriber takes a DTH connection from a different DTH operator and tries to receive the signal using the old Set-Top Box, it would result in a failed attempt. DTH Set-Top Box interoperability seeks to solve this issue, and as it is completed, the subscribers will be able to buy Set-Top Boxes which can be used with any DTH operator without any limitation. As per Trai, the lack of interoperability in the DTH industry has not only compromised the competition between the DTH operator in the pay-TV but has also posed as a major roadblock for technological innovation, improvement, in service quality and sector growth.
Trai Invites Comments from Industry Stakeholders
As for this newly issued consultation paper, Trai has said that the paper details various technical solutions and seeks the views of the industry stakeholders along with detailed justifications as to what the optimal and cost-effective solution can be for achieving Set-Top Box interoperability. Trai has also noted that the comments can be posted on the paper by December 9, 2019, and the counter comments will be open till December 23, 2019. If a suitable technical solution is agreed upon, the next step would be for the DTH operators to implement the solution in their manufacturing of future Set-Top Boxes. Interoperable Set-Top Boxes would increase the competition a little bit as they will bring down the overhead cost involved in switching from one DTH operator to another and will also make it easier for the subscribers to migrate to their DTH operator of choice easily.