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How DTH operators view infrastructure sharing among DPOs

MUMBAI: There should be an amendment in the licence agreement which should clearly state that the direct-to-home (DTH) service provider can share its satellite capacity with one or more DTH operators, Dish TV suggested.

Any party should be able to apply for a DTH licence merely by providing an agreement with an already licensed DTH operator stating that satellite capacity would be shared. There would not be a requirement to produce a satellite capacity agreement, Dish TV stated.

Dish-Tv logoDish TV also suggested that in case space capacity was provided by ISRO either on the INSAT system or on a foreign satellite system, they should provide in the agreement that such capacity could be shared with one or more DTH operators.

Wireless Planning and Co-ordination (WPC) would charge the transponder spectrum fees from only to the operator that has leased the transponder. The NOCC charges would apply only to the operator that has leased the transponder.

“In teleport operators agreement, there would be a provision for a teleport operator to uplink for two or more DTH systems, where some transponders may be common and others may be separate between two or more DTH systems,” Dish TV submitted to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

Dish TV suggested that infrastructure sharing in all cases should be voluntary since distribution platform operators (DPO) would be more than willing to take advantage of a policy if it saved costs. It further stated that the arrangement would not work if it was made mandatory.

Most of the DTH operators have supported the TRAI’s suggestion of infrastructure sharing among distribution platform operators (DPOs). However, they have said that it should be on a voluntary basis.

TRAI had issued a pre-consultation paper on infrastructure sharing in the broadcasting TV distribution sector in which it had suggested infrastructure sharing between different DPOs like DTH and headend-in-the-sky (HITS) operators, between HITS and multi-system operators (MSOs) and among MSOs. This would ensure optimum utilisation of the available infrastructure, TRAI had felt.

Tata Sky

Sharing its views, Tata Sky contended that the regulator should elicit views of the Department of Space (DoS) in the matter. The DoS looks into satellite capacity required by industry players.

tata skyThe DTH operator further stated that the decoupling of network and services would be possible if the DoS itself devised a mechanism whereby it acted as an infrastructure or network service provider to various distributors and ensured efficient operations and maintenance of networks to ensure optimal utilisation.

This, Tata Sky said, would be useful as it reduced the burden on service providers to obtain numerous regulatory approvals and enabled them to focus on quality of service.

“This will negate any need for the industry to work together or groups within the industry to work together to enable this to happen,” the DTH operator said in its submission.

Airtel Digital TV

Airtel Digital TVAirtel Digital TV noted that there are more than 850 channels in India and to carry all these channels, DTH operators require at least 1500 MHz spectrum. In contrast, the existing capacity of DTH operators ranges from 200 MHz to 700 MHz, which makes it difficult to carry all the channels.

Therefore, a favourable policy on the sharing of satellite capacity would enable DTH operators to carry more channels with the same capacity and to offer services at much more affordable price, the DTH operator said.

It also stated that infrastructure sharing should be voluntary as it entails huge technical and operational challenges.

Videocon d2h

Videocon d2h stated that the DTH licence provided by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) had clear provisions about a DTH operator who had to establish and complete the installation of the uplink earth station with all monitoring facilities and thus commission the DTH platform.

videocon-d2h-logo-coverThe licence agreement has further provisions as to the procedures, permissions, licences to be obtained from various other government bodies. Additionally, separate and exclusive up-linking and down-linking guidelines are in place since the inception of the industry.

Videocon d2h further stated that infrastructure sharing among DPOs would be a Herculean task considering that the nature and parameters of various distribution platforms differed vastly.

The company also cautioned that the DTH service across the country would be jeopardised through a single point of failure if all the DTH operators were forced to operate from a single satellite.

While it is against mandatory infrastructure sharing, the DTH operator said that common infrastructure sharing among DTH operators, internet service providers through Ku band and HITS operators could be allowed and should be made voluntary.

There is no need to bring in any set of rules, regulations or law for such voluntary sharing by these platforms, it stated.

CAS, STBs and other technical issues

On the question of technical and operational issues that need to be sorted to enable infrastructure sharing, Dish TV stated that all DPOs should provide approved conditional access system (CAS) and set-top boxes (STBs).

In case of any piracy, they should have a mechanism to upgrade their CAS/security algorithm or face disconnection. All DPOs should deploy devices in the network, which would not mask the fingerprints generated by broadcaster feeds. DPOs, if they use their own CAS, should in addition have their own fingerprinting mechanisms.

It also stated that broadcasters should have the freedom to message, warn and isolate each MSO if in default on any count, as per guidelines, and ultimately if situation demand, disconnect it.

Further, the databases should be auditable and verifiable, and all subscribers should be able to lodge complaints through a common website.

There should be extra efforts that each subscriber is given a number and it should be made mandatory for each DPO to paste such number on the decoder or STB provided to each customer. There should be a website address to which subscribers should be able to SMS their subscriber number and get details of all payments made. There should also be a regulated website operated by the authority where subscribers should be able to SMS their operator name and subscriber number if they feel they are not being officially billed/acknowledged.

Every single case reported to the authority should be investigated, and a penalty of Rs 1 lakh levied for every subscriber undeclared, so detected on the MSO or HITS operator, it submitted.

Listing out challenges of infrastructure sharing, Airtel Digital TV stated that the DTH operators would have to re-align all their existing dish antennas installed at the subscriber premises if they share their existing satellite bandwidth.

Such an exercise would entail huge cost and time, it noted.

According to Airtel Digital TV, simultaneous uplink on two satellites would be required until migration is completed. Again, such an exercise will entail huge capex and opex.

Availability of more than 40 transponders on a single orbital slot to cater all DTH operators is a challenge, it stated. Furthermore, there will be a need of at least six transponders for each operator to uplink unique content/value-added service.

Satellite redundancy in same orbital location for business continuity is essential.

Currently, different DTH operators are using different combinations of technology in STBs. Therefore, there cannot be a common headend and RF system for all DTH operators without replacing STBs. The cost of such replacement would be enormous.

Piracy concerns, audit and billing issues with broadcasters are operationally difficult to manage. The same is the case with the controlling of conditional access system (simulcrypt) in terms of security and revenue assurance.

Ownership for handling common facility operationally, owning QoS and service/network uptime for common services to all operators would be a huge challenge, it stated.

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