Trai Sets Its Sight on Set-Top Box Interoperability: What is It and Will it Be Useful?

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has been making a lot of changes in the Indian broadcasting industry to make it more accessible and transparent. In the same process, the sector regulator introduced a tariff regime aiming at bringing more transparency in the industry. However, the new tariff regime failed to impress the consumers as they complained about increased TV bills. But Trai has another major move under its sleeves which is Set-Top Box interoperability. For the unaware, Set-Top Box interoperability by Trai is the next big thing in the Cable TV and DTH industry as it allows users to change operators without the requirement of replacing Set-Top Boxes every time. This upcoming scheme from Trai will be extremely useful for all the customers across the country. Right now, Trai is working on how they can implement the scheme, and several times, the officials of Trai confirmed the Set-Top Box interoperability would be executed by the end of 2019.

Progress in Set-Top Box Interoperability Implementation

Now we all know that the talks about interoperability have been moving around in chatters across the industry, but yet there has been no prototype for the same. But, that does not mean that the industry regulator or the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) is not working on it. In fact, Trai chairman, RS Sharma has also spoken at length about STB interoperability and said that it could be rolled out by the end of 2019. He also added that the telecom regulator has been working on this since the past two years, and now it is high time that STB interoperability is finally brought to the consumers. With this, he also asserted the importance of open-source systems and how they will be beneficial for the DTH space.

Advantages of STB Interoperability and Why it is Useful

Currently, if the subscribers want to change their DTH operator, then they have to cross the hurdle of switching their DTH set-top boxes. Now it is very well known that the DTH set-top boxes which the companies retail cost upwards of Rs 1,000 easily and in many cases even north of Rs 2,000 as well, as such the consumers are sometimes hesitant to move to another DTH company. Especially in an industry where the DTH operators are rolling out new offers, attractive plans and more for the subscribers, the consumers might feel restricted in changing their service provider with no STB interoperability.

When the technology is made feasible, it will be easy for the subscribers to switch between the DTH service providers because then they will be able to use the STB from one provider with the services of other. In the process, the subscribers will be able to save more than Rs 1,000, which they would otherwise spend on getting a new STB.

Trai's Attempts to Better Customer Service

What’s interesting is that in the past few months, the telecom regulator has introduced rules which have immensely increased the quality of service norms and the adherence of the DTH operators to it. Due to the new rules, the DTH service providers have emphasised a proper functioning website, streamlined consumer-centric applications and even set up proper call centres for the ease of the subscribers. In such a scenario and with increasing level of QoS, the introduction of STB interoperability would be the next step.

Trai Tariff Regime to Get Major Revisions Soon

Trai's tariff regime received a sub-par response from the consumers as they faced an increase in TV bills and also the lack of proper implementation from the operator irked them. Trai has been monitoring the implementation of the new tariff regime from both Cable TV and DTH operators since the start and the regulator has recently issued a consultation paper on what changes it's planning to bring to the new regime.

Going by the consultation paper, we can expect the Trai to bring major changes like variable NCF charges, single Multi TV connection charges to every operator and a verdict on long-term channel packs. The new changes will become effective very soon once Trai receives a proper response from the stakeholders.

Reported By


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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