Soon Consumers Will Be Able to Switch DTH Providers Without Changing STB: Trai

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has said that it is planning to make all the set-top boxes (STBs) interoperable by the year-end. Last year, the Trai had introduced some radical changes to the pricing of DTH operators, introduced new mandates and rolled out some drastic changes. One topic which Trai has spoken about, again and again, is the interoperability of STBs. Notably, the subscribers of DTH and cable providers were forced to use STBs which were exclusive to the service provider. This had put the consumers in a tight spot since if they wanted to switch their DTH or cable provider, they would have to change their STB as well, but now Trai intends to change that.

Trai Chairman Promises of Early Action on Interoperability

The main reason for the STBs exclusivity to a single operator is because every operator uses different technical parameters. Now, Trai chairman, RS Sharma has said that the industry regulatory body is working hand in hand with government agencies like Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DoT) and also with outside consultants to find out a solution for the problem of interoperability of set-top boxes. Sharma also revealed that the project which was expected to be wrapped up on an earlier date is taking more time than expected. To recall, Trai had announced much earlier that it wants to introduce interoperability between STBs to facilitate consumer convenience.

RS Sharma said to Times to India, “The project is going on, though it is taking more time than what we had originally thought of. It is continuing… I will try to certainly complete this within one year.” Another hurdle which the Trai might face in its bid to reach full interoperability will be from the distribution platform operators (DPOs). These DPOs are not on the same page as Trai, when it comes to interoperability, as they think that such a step would pave the way for an increased threat of piracy.

DPOs Fear Increase in Piracy

Trai chairman also added that if the STBs are to be made interoperable, then they must be allowed to download the software post the purchase and must not come with proprietary software installed. In his own words, Sharma said, “For example, you can buy a neutral STB from the market, and the instrument remains independent. Thereafter, whosoever is your service provider may load his software on the box.”

Another thing to note is that Trai had announced about interoperability of STBs along with its other announcements about the new pricing regime. Although Trai has successfully implemented the new tariff mandate, and it goes into effect on February 1st, the Trai might face some technical and industrial hurdles in its bid to make STB interoperability mainstream.

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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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