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First collect CAF before activating STBs: TRAI’s Kesarwani

VADODARA: With the deadline for digital addressable system (DAS) Phase III being 31 December 2015, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) wants the multi-system operators (MSOs) to learn from the mistakes of the first two phases and rectify them in Phases III and IV.

Speaking at the Vadodara edition of TelevisionPost.com’s digital initiative GroundPost, TRAI deputy advisor GS Kesarwani said that many MSOs had installed pre-activated STBs in Phases I and II, which is against the law.

Kesarwani-barodara

“You have to first collect the customer application form [CAF], see what your customer wants, and then only activate the box,” Kesarwani told the MSOs and LCOs at the event.

He added that an MSO should ensure a written agreement with the LCO. “The agreement has to clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the two parties and the revenue share. The MSOs also need to set up a subscriber management system (SMS) and the responsibility of generating bills lies with them. They need also to ensure the delivery of the bill. For this, an MSO can enter an agreement with the LCO,” Kesarwani said.

Addressing the concerns of independent cable operators, he said that LCOs could apply for MSO registration to the Information & Broadcasting Ministry (MIB). “As MSO, one has the right to take signals from the broadcaster and as per rule, an MSO cannot deny the signals,” he explained. “An agreement between a service provider and a consumer is mandatory.”

With respect to the changes in the industry, he said that technology is changing fast in tandem with customers and their viewing patterns.

Talking about TRAI’s intervention, Kesarwani said that the change has been taking place since 2012.

Kesarwani stated that TRAI first gave its recommendations to the government for cable TV digitisation in 2010. “The government accepted our recommendations. We also told the government that the entire country could not be digitised in one go and that it should be done in a phased manner. We also suggested which cities could be done in Phases I and II and so on.”

Based on these recommendations, the government introduced amendments to the Cable TV Act and made new rules. After that, TRAI made a comprehensive regulation on the quality of service and the interconnect arrangement between service providers.

So what has changed?

Kesarwani said that the cable TV sector has remained unchanged and so have the LCOs and consumers. However, now DAS has given consumers the freedom of choice with respect to the channels the LCO is offering.

“Now the consumer is king and their choice is very important. Therefore, we suggested the consumer fill the CAF before they opt for your array of services. As different consumers have different choices, packaging is important.”

TRAI also saw to it that channels were provided a la carte, because if a consumer wants only 10 channels, an MSO has to provide only those 10 channels.

Another change in the Cable TV Act was the introduction of a clause allowing cable operators to register through a post office. However, those who want to operate in DAS-notified areas will still need to get registered with the MIB by paying a registration fee of Rs 100,000. Therefore, the question arises if small cable operators who operate in small towns also need to pay Rs 100,000 to do their business.

“If LCOs get their registration via the post office and renew it every year, then the government will recognise them and they will be able to provide signals to consumers. However, they can’t take signals from the broadcasters, because for that they will need an MSO registration from the MIB,” he said.

“One important point here is that if an LCO asks an MSO for signals, it is necessary for the MSO to give such signals within 60 days for re-transmission. A written agreement should be there and they can decide among themselves,” he added.

What about LCOs accusing TRAI of making them play second fiddle to the MSOs? “An LCO is an independent entity and if they ask for signals from an MSO, the MSO is bound by law to give them the signals. Not many people are aware of this,” the TRAI deputy advisor explained.

He added that the revenue share formula should be based on the number of subscribers and their choice of packages. There is also a provision for minimum revenue share between an MSO and an LCO, which safeguards the business of the LCO in case they fail to reach a mutual agreement.

“Your business is not going to be taken over by someone else and you are not going to be an agent. You have invested in the business and you are an independent entity,” he assured the LCOs assembled at the event.

Also read:

Broadcasters, MSOs and LCOs should work like a cooperative society: Anirudhsinh Jadeja