The debate over open architecture set top boxes continues even
as broadcasters twiddle their thumbs. KU-band direct-to-home (DTH)
television service in India is likely take some more time before
taking off. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which has been
mandated to come up with technical specifications for the set-top-boxes
(STBs) for DTH, may complete its work only by the end of February
A senior official of India's information and broadcasting ministry
told indiantelevision.com today that BIS generally takes about 60
days for such issues under a procedure and the final process is
yet to start.
"The BIS was asked by the government earlier this year to look
into the various technical aspects of STBs for DTH, including the
fact whether an open architecture is possible or not. We think that
BIS will take 60 days to finalise the issue and the specifications
may be conveyed to the government only towards the end of February,"
the official pointed out.
Though government officials in the ministry are of the opinion that
open architecture STBs is a possibility, some people in the BIS
feel to the contrary. A senior BIS official told indiantelevision.com
reluctantly, quite content to be vague, that the issue of open architecture
is a contentious one and needs to be looked into thoroughly.
Certain circles feel that the BIS probably wants to say that for
DTH there cannot be an open architecture, but still is unable to
articulate it properly.
From the time the DTH guidelines were announced by the government
in November 2000, policymakers and broadcasters, interested in starting
a DTH service in India, have been at loggerheads over the open architecture
issue. Government's stand has been that such a thing is possible;
whereas broadcasters' have held the view that nowhere in the world
does open architecture prevail for DTH.
When confronted with this information, the ministry official, however,
admitted that "BIS has also not indicated to us that open architecture
is not possible."
The official further pointed out: "BIS may have some reservation
on the issue, but during our talks it has indicated in a limited
way that it may be made possible through technology."
As BIS finally gets down to grapple with the situation, a small
hitch has cropped up in the meanwhile which, the ministry official
said, may have also contributed to the delay. Until now BIS, which
is again part of the Indian government, had been playing the advisory
role in various technical aspects relating to broadcasting free
of cost. But now the board of the BIS feels that such services should
be paid for. "So, we have asked the BIS that it should go ahead
with finalising the specifications regarding DTH boxes and the issue
of payment for the advisory service can be settled also as part
of an intra-governmental affair," the official explained.
In two years' time since the DTH guidelines had been announced,
only two companies have applied for a DTH licence. This includes
Star's affiliate Space TV and Subhash Chandra's ASC Enterprises