The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has been in talks with industry stakeholders for a while to bring Set-Top Box (STB) interoperability to India. Right now, the STBs offered by Cable TV operators are non-interoperable, meaning the same STB cannot be used across different service providers. However, the STBs of DTH operators comply with the license conditions to support Common Interface (CI) module based interoperability. But Trai states that the current generation STBs of DTH operators are also not ready for interoperability. This is the reason why Trai is bringing interoperable Set-Top Boxes which will allow the users to switch between different service providers with ease. The regulatory body has given a time of six months to DTH and MSOs to implement the new standards and bring interoperable STBs.
DTH and Cable TV Operators Have Six Months to Implement Interoperable STBs
Trai has been talking about Set-Top Box portability for a while now and the regulator is finally bringing new standards to the industry. Trai stated that all Set-Top Boxes in India must support technical interoperability, meaning every commercial STB provided to a customer must be interoperable. Furthermore, DTH and Multi-System Operators (MSOs) have been provided with six months of time to adopt the new standards. The new standard, as mentioned by Trai, is DVB CI Plus 2.0 (with USB CAM) as per the ESTI TS 103 605 standards.
The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) may include a suitable clause to 'compulsorily facilitate' Set-Top Box interoperability service.
DTH and Cable TV STBs Cannot Be Interoperable
Another point worth noting is that the Set-Top Boxes of DTH and Cable TV operators are not interoperable. This essentially means that a DTH subscriber cannot be migrated as a Cable TV user and vice versa. Trai says that there are technical and commercial constraints to universal STB, so the interoperability shall be applicable within the DTH and within the cable segment respectively.
USB Port-Based Common Interface Proposed for All Digital TV Sets
Trai also recommends mandatory provisioning of USB port-based Common Interface for all digital television sets in India. The MIB along with Trai and Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) may request BIS to amend the specifications for digital television sets to include USB based Common Interface port as per DVI CI Plus 2.0 standard based on ETS TS 103 605.
All the TV manufacturers must provide all digital television sets with minimum one open interface port based on DVB CI Plus 2.0 standards permitting simple connection of USB CAM to allow reception of television signals. Secondly, manufacturers should also provide the TV sets with built-in tuners to enable reception of television content through both satellite and cable platforms.
MIB May Set Up Coordination Committee to Monitor the New Rules
The MIB may also set up a Coordination Committee having members from MeitY, Trai, BIS and TV manufacturers. This committee will steer the implementation of revised STB rules over the next six months.
It is already a piece of known news that the DTH and Cable TV operators have opposed the move of STB interoperability in India. Some operators stated that the new standards might overburden them financially, while some said that the new rules aren't required for a country like India. But again, Trai has now mandated that all the STBs should be portable in the next six months.