Trai-MSOs: rounds of meetings on anvil for extending Cas

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority (Trai), is now preparing for the "big one": extension of Cas in the rest of the areas of the three metros.

As things stand, it seems most likely to come some time this year, and yet, nothing has been done on implementing Quality of Service so far, has been told.

"We will need several meetings with stakeholders for this," says a Trai official. The first meeting is to be held in the capital on 5 April, but the process will continue, he says.

The official explains why: "Under Cas as it stands, the universe is just about 15 lakh (1.5 million) HHs or so, but if it is extended it will go up to 80 lakh (8 million) HHs or above, and we would need to know if the MSOs are in a position to support this rate of growth. It will not be possible for us to come to a clear picture in just one meeting."


It is only after the process is complete that Trai would recommend to the government if mandatory Cas should be unfurled at one go, or in phases.

Trai seems happy with the fact that the MSOs are feeding it with daily reports of inputs being made from Cas consumer choice forms into the database. The regulator has, however, not yet accessed any information regarding which are the channels being chosen more often by consumers.


"At the moment, MSOs are giving us daily reports on how many customer choices are being fed into the computer on a daily basis."

Meanwhile, it is known the some MSOs have given qualitative data on customer choice to the broadcasters, but Trai has not asked for them, and hence is still unaware of what sort of trends the data is throwing up.

There have been several indications from MSOs that the data is startling and demolishes claims by many channels that they are on top. However, MSOs are keeping the data close to their chests.

But, says the official, "We shall need that data for the mid-year review, sometime in June, and we shall ask MSOs for that."

Surprisingly, the official says that nothing has been done on on the critical issue of implementing Quality of Service norms.

"The quality of service cannot be implemented unless all the data is fed into the computer. At the moment, you are a name in a form, and when the data is entered, you become a number.

"Only then will it be possible for you to call up a BPO and, using your number, file a complaint. This data will be available with us only then, and without that quality of service cannot be implemented

"This is taking time, not so much because the MSOs are not working, but because customers are still taking a lot of time to indicate their choices," the official explains.

The latest data that he has provided shows that the gap between the number of forms filled and the data entered by MSOs has narrowed, but the gap between the number of boxes seeded and number of customers who have filled the forms is wider.

This is a familial issue, he holds, with most families with single TV sets finding it difficult to come to a consensus on channel choice, and hence delaying filling and returning the forms.

"The MSOs have told me, however, that this exercise will be over by the first or second week of April," he says.


The official, on another significant issue, denied that Trai has said anything on exclusive content being considered for DTH players.

"We have not said anything to any newspaper excepting what is there in the DTH Consultation paper," the Trai official has said.

The Trai position has always been that channels would have to be provided on a nondiscriminatory manner, so there would be no question of exclusivity.

A curious position exists, however, on the issue of tariff regulation for DTH players, which was pointed out to the official.

In an interim order by TDSAT involving a DTH player, the court has said that Trai should take the issue up. The counsel for the DTH player has twice in the recent past told the court to implement that interim order.

Asked to comment on this, the official expressed surprise and said he was not aware of this.

On the issue of Must Provide (all channels of a broadcaster), as against Must Carry (of such channels by a DTH player), Trai had filed an affidavit before TDSAT saying that it has never imposed a Must Carry provision on the DTH operators, but only a Must Provide of all channels of a broadcaster.

Zee Turner, in the same case with TataSky, has placed on the table of TDSAT documents of Trai itself which they said shows Trai has issued a Must Carry obligation on the DTH players. However, the case is now reserved for pronouncement or judgment and the Trai official would not comment on that.

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