Trai Asks DTH Operators to Fulfil Prepaid Commitment for Customers on Long-Duration Plans

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Ahead of the looming February 1 deadline for the switchover to the new broadcasting regime, telecom regulator Trai has asked DTH operators to honour pre-paid commitment on ongoing long-duration packs if the customer wishes to continue with them. The advisory which is being sent out to operators assumes significance as the deadline for migration to the new tariff regime for broadcasting and cable services is just hours away and there have been reports that some DTH players are nudging customers with long duration packs, to choose channels under the new framework, without offering them the option to continue with their plan. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Chairman R S Sharma told PTI that there is no change in the February 1 deadline for migration to the new tariff regime for broadcasting and cable services.

Trai Confident of a Smooth Switchover to New Regime

Sharma said he is "confident" of a smooth switchover on the stipulated day without any inconvenience to customers. "Where customers have already exercised their choice and decided to move to the new framework if they have long or short duration packs, it (the payment made) will get adjusted. In those cases where people have not yet migrated and they have a long or short duration plan already on, the regulation clearly states that customers have the choice to continue with it, till the plan expires," Sharma said.

The Trai chief also made it clear that if a DTH customer with existing long-duration pack wishes to exercise his channel choice mid-way (opt for specific channels under the new regime), then the balance money left in customer wallet at that point should accordingly be adjusted by the operator.

Sharma emphasised that the right to choose - whether to continue with ongoing long duration pack till its expiry, or migrate to the new regime and have the balance adjusted - will remain with the customer.

What is Trai's New Broadcasting Regime?

Trai has unveiled the new tariff order and regulatory regime for the broadcast and cable sector, which would pave the way for consumers to opt for channels they wish to view and pay only for them. It had said every channel should be offered a la carte, with a transparent display of rates on electronic programme guide.

Even in the case of short-duration packs, customers can make their selection when they go in for recharges. "There is no question of discontinuation. We are very clear that in DTH platform also, the customer will not have to suffer since it is a completely pre-paid platform," Sharma said.

The customer on-boarding in case of DTH has been less than cable services (wherein 70% of the cases the customer choice has been recorded) but Trai believes that its pre-paid nature will ensure that there is no disruption in services. Sharma said that old framework was a push mechanism, while the new regime is the "pull" mechanism that places channel choice in the hands of the consumer. Users, he said can simply browse their TV and note down the channels they generally watch and then communicate their choices to operators.

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