AIDCF requests TRAI to resolve primary issues before rolling out STB interoperability

MUMBAI: The All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) has requested the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to resolve primary issues concerning set top boxes (STB) interoperability before holding deliberations on the matter.

In its submission to the TRAI on the consultation paper ‘Interoperability of Set Top Box’, the AIDCF requested the authority to resolve the primary issues like solution architecture, framework, CAS and SMS registration, security standards, standardising middleware software, collection, and control mechanism of STBs, central agency for STB hardware complaints before deliberation on interoperability of STBs. “We, therefore request Authority to hold the present consultation paper,” the AIDCF said.

The AIDCF noted that use of different Conditional Access System (CAS), compression, encryption, middleware, and EPG make the STB a DPOs proprietary and hence such STBs cannot be 100% inter-operable with the same services/features.

It further stated that a DPO’s differentiated features and competitive edge lie in the development of STB. Service delivery and product differentiation capability are inbuilt in the STB, which drives value proposition for the end consumer. “By mandating interoperable STBs, we will be denying consumer to enjoy additional interactive services provided by the operator,” it stated.

On the TRAI’s concern about e-waste with 54 million STBs lying idle or unused in the DTH segment only and a similar number in cable segment, the AIDCF noted that the majority of e-waste is not because of interoperability, it is because of re-accessibility of the STB’s. Despite STBs are provided on FOC basis to consumers, very few consumers are willing to return their STBs.

The AIDCF also questioned as to why 54 million DTH STBs are lying idle despite the fact that DTH licence has an inherent clause of provision of interoperable STBs and many DTH players have started providing interoperable STBs.

This, it stated, highlights that customer is not willing to use interoperability due to commercial unviability or the lack of features. “With the advancement in technology and interactive services, the STBs will further be discarded and e-waste will generate substantially,” it added.

The AIDCF pointed out that Videocon d2h and Dish TV are maintaining their separate systems and separate STBs even after merger due non-interoperability of STBs. It also cited the example of Independent TV which also demonstrated a similar scenario when the existing STBs of the DTH player were not interoperable with other DTH players and viewers had to compulsorily invest in the purchase of new STBs to continue availing of broadcasting services since the previous STBs were non-interoperable.

“Therefore it is requested that the Authority should get compliance of License Conditions from DTH Operators and then study the behaviour of Subscribers with respect to migration from one DTH Player to another and thereafter such consultation be done if at all there is any need,” AIDCF said in its submission.

It further noted that approximately 40 million households, who are availing broadcasting services from DD Free Dish are using the non-interoperable STBs which the subscribers have purchased leading to an additional cost for the subscribers in the event they want to shift to an alternate service provider/ DPO.

“Again investment of interoperable STBs would be a burden for Subscribers and would lead to further increase in consumer price for viewing Cable Services.”

On the technical aspect, AIDCF said that since CATV and DTH use DVB-C/C2 and DVB-S/S2 standard for signal modulation the interoperability between CATV and DTH will lead to unnecessary cost burden due to additional component of the front-end like tuners and other components which are exclusive for DVB satellite and DVB cable for receiving the transmitted signal.

For a STB to be able to receive signal both from DTH and cable, there will be a requirement of switchable demodulator unit, which will further increase the complexity and cost of STB to the end consumer.

“In view of above, Authority is thereby requested to treat DTH and Cable TV as different platforms and considering the dynamicity of Cable TV industry (1469 MSOs and 1 Lakh LCOs), the implementation of STB interoperability shall be initiated and implemented with DTH,” AIDCF averred.

It also stated that interoperability and commoditisation (availability in open market) of STBs will fuel the piracy. “Authority is therefore requested to float a consultation paper for recommending the control mechanism to curb piracy.”

AIDCF has also requested the authority to form technology groups/committees and they shall be tasked to design and define the required standards.

It also suggested that in order to make the STBs interoperable, all the DPOs (DTH players/MSOs) will have to come together and adopt a common technology to take this concept forward in terms of compression, CAS and signalling.

“Authority is therefore requested to form a committee of technical and commercial experts who would set out the guidelines and technical framework for the STB interoperability. They should be from MSO/DTH/STB Vendors/BIS/Chipset/CAS & SMS Vendors,” it stated.

On the introduction of a Trust Authority, the AIDCF said that it will add as an additional layer of regulation/function which may add procedural and commercial costs to the solution. “Authority is therefore requested to devise some solution wherein intervention of TA is not required.”