18 Oct 2017
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TRAI to start inspections to monitor quality of service

BENGALURU: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is firming up plans to start inspections to monitor the quality of service (QoS) in the cable and broadcasting sector.

Talking at TelevisionPost.com’s on-ground initiative GroundPost in Bengaluru, TRAI advisor for Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala and Goa region Dr Sibichen K Mathew said that the regulator will soon be coming out with QoS inspections to do a check on all service aspects, from installation of set-top boxes to repair to consumer grievances to choice of channels.

bengaluru-event02“This inspection is going to start soon, as well as technical audits to monitor the quality of delivery. We will check what MSOs (multi-system operators), broadcasters and LCOs (local cable operators) are promising and whether or not they are delivering on them,” he explained.

TRAI has been patient for a long time and this is the time when it will have to take a stand and enforce the regulations. “This is the fourth year (from DAS notification) and now even people are asking that why the regulator is not taking action in this sector,” Mathew said.

He added that TRAI monitors QoS and can come up with financial disincentives as all the regulation is in place. “But, the regulator is being very patient. We know that the sector, which has been totally unorganised, is slowly coming out of the mess,” he said.

He also emphasised that these are very necessary steps to ensure digitisation in Phases III and IV.

Talking about Karnataka, he said that at least on paper it seems digitisation has completed in Bengaluru and Mysore. “We are not very happy with grievance redressal system and it has to strengthen,” he added.

Overall in Karnataka, he said 56.2 per cent digitisation is achieved, which shows that “we need to work hard, and with good coordination, we can achieve 100 per cent”.

In Maharashtra and Kerala, he said, TRAI is getting very positive response. “In fact, in Kerala the MSOs who we met recently requested us not to let the deadline extend.”

Concerns

Talking about the concerns with digitisation, he said that there are many of them.

“First, there is a lot of disagreement between MSOs, LCOs, and broadcasters. Until and unless you sort out these issues, you are not going to achieve the targets.”

He further added that cable and broadcasting is one of the best industries, and is going to earn a lot of revenue. “But the biggest bottleneck is that there is absolutely no coordination between MSOs, LCOs, and the broadcasters,” he said.

“Until and unless you have proper agreements on services, revenue sharing, etc., how are you going to do business? There is no consensus on small things like STB repair. Who will do the service? But you have to understand that these are important issues for the consumers,” he noted.

The second concern, he said, was the one coming from LCOs or independent MSOs that big companies are reducing the prices. “Here we are in an open market economy. The question is how much we can regulate the pricing. Only condition is that we cannot have a price fixed which will affect the consumer.”

Another area of concern is regarding STBs.

Dr Mathew said that transformation has happened in the delivery platform of TV as the younger generation is consuming content not just on TV but also on different screens. “But now the time is of turning the idiot box into intelligent box.”

He emphasised that the government of India is giving a lot of importance to the sector as TV helps to provide not just entertainment but also information across the nation. The first step towards convergence is digitisation.

However, despite covering two phases of digitisation, no one is happy with the achievement mainly because of the challenges faced in Phases III and IV, he added.

“We need to take lessons from Phases I and II, and create a proper roadmap for the next phases. The main reason for this bottleneck that we are envisaging is the large geographical region of this country and the sector has been completely unorganised for several years.”

He added that the services are cheap and that India has one of the lowest tariffs for the cable services on the consumer side. “They [consumers] get to see the channels at a much cheaper price. But the scope of increasing the quality and expanding is unlimited. But for that, you need more resources.”

On the whole, many a time we confuse digitisation with putting set-top boxes at consumer premises. “That may be just a 5 per cent. While it starts with putting STBs at consumer homes, the second step is registering every consumer enrolled with the customer application form where the consumer says what his choice is. Unfortunately, there are many procedural lapses in even Phases I and II. Whenever there is a lapse, the ultimate objective is not fulfilled,” he added.

On TRAI’s expectations, he said that all the regulator wants is the choice to the consumer, CAF forms dully filled, and the subscriber management system (SMS) in place. “Every MSO should have the SMS in place, which doesn’t mean only subscriber details but a proper grievance redressal mechanism.”

“Unless you have a proper grievance redressal mechanism for Phases I and II, we are going to fail in Phases III and IV. Do you have proper billing, call centres, procedures for STB repair, refunds, shifting, etc. in the first two phases? Ultimately, the end consumer should be allowed a smile as he is giving you revenue,” he added.

“The biggest challenge before going into the next two phases lies in the backlog. We have to set the process right in Phases I and II, he said.