Extending Cas areas: Trai calls for MSO meeting on 5 April

NEW DELHI: Much in keeping with the demands of both MSOs and DTH operators, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has taken the first step towards rolling out mandatory Cas in the entire area of the three main metros, issuing a letter seeking various inputs from MSOs.

Trai has asked them to fill up a proforma with detailed responses to various issues that need to be looked into before deciding whether Cas should be extended at one go or in phases in the remaining parts of the three metros.

Trai has written a letter to the MSOs (a copy of which is with calling for a meeting on 5 April in New Delhi, for "assessing (MSOs‘) state of preparedness in the case of extension of Conditional Access System to other parts of Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata."


The MSOs, to say the least, are delighted, saying that rolling out Cas would infuse the much needed spirit in their business and would address the issue of residents of the same city getting discriminatory pricing for viewing cable television.


The two major issue that Trai has urged MSOs to work on are:

* Whether Cas may be extended to the remaining areas of the three metros at one go or in phases; and

* What should be the time frame for the various activities that need to be undertaken.

Trai has raised specific issues in its letter.

Among them is the issue of time required by MSOs to apply to the I&B Ministry for permission under Rule 11 (2) of amended Cable Rules (presently, a time period of 30 days is permitted under the Rules).

Trai has also asked about the time required by MSOs for setting up physical infrastructure such as digital head-end (if digital transmission is preferred), encryption system (Cas), subscriber management system (SMS), laying cables wherever required, etc;

The MSOs have so far seeded 500,000 STBs in the Cas areas of the three metros and say they have in hand another 185,000 ready to be seeded.

If Cas is extended, this would be nowhere near sufficient, hence Trai has asked them about the time required for procurement of set top boxes in sufficient numbers; as well as time needed for conclusion of interconnection agreements with broadcasters on one hand and with local cable operators on the other.

Some MSOs have argued that the broadcasters and MSOs should be allowed to come to negotiated terms between themselves, failing which Trai could step in to do what is needed.

Trai also wants to know for how long a public awareness campaign would be conducted by the MSOs.

MSOs have been also asked to respond on the issue of how much time should be allowed for inviting applications for STBs from subscribers and how much time would be required for installation of boxes?

"Should these two activities be simultaneous or one after the other?" Trai has queried.

It has added: "How long should the "trial period" (a period of transition) be prior to complete roll out of Cas?"

The letter reminds the MSOs that in the present Cas rollout exercise, a transition period of 15 days had been allowed when pay channels had to be compulsorily transmitted both in encrypted and unencrypted manner.

Expectedly, MSOs and cable operators are delighted. They see this as a concrete move towards extension of Cas to other parts of the city, and point out to one aspect of the letter: Trai has not asked if Cas should be extended, but whether it should be done at one go or in phases.

Arvind Mohan, MSO Alliance secretary told "This is a positive step forward after Trai had just recently taken us into confidence regarding the extension of Cas. We had all stressed voluntary Cas would not work. Even the DTH players support this."

The letter to the MSOs, which has been signed by Deputy Advisor PK Ravi, says, "You are requested to make it convenient to attend the meeting. The meeting will be held in Kautilya Hall, Samrat Hotel, New Delhi at 3 pm on 5th April 2007."

The annexure to the letter, which gives the format for response, says that of the inputs from the MSOs, the following would be kept confidential with Trai:

* Number of Cable operators affiliated to the MSO in the notified areas (separately for each of the metros);

* Number of households served: a) directly by the MSO b) through the cable operators; and

* Expected level of demand for STBs.

Incidentally, Kotak in its latest report on the DTH sector, had predicted that mandatory Cas extension would hasten the growth of the sector, as people would be forced to choose between one of the other addressable systems, Cas or DTH.

Mohan also said that this is a laudable effort on the part of the government to extend addressability and give the consumers genuine choice, and this will also ensure greater transparency, ensuring higher revenue for the government.


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