BIS task-force on STB specifications for DTH

NEW DELHI: The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has decided to form a task force to come up with recommendations on the specifications of set-top boxes (STBs) for KU-band direct-to-home television service, even as Star felt that interoperability, as suggested in the government guidelines, is not a workable model.


The task force would include representatives from the BIS, the two DTH applicant companies (the Subhash Chandra promoted ASC Enterprises and a Star affiliate, Space TV), Doordarshan (DD) , All India Radio (AIR) and a consumer activist.

The task force has to come up with its recommendations for the main committee of the BIS. What can make the work of task force difficult is the fact that BIS' viewpoint is that it has to operate within the broad framework of the policy guidelines which states that for KU-band DTH service an open architecture has to be followed.

At a meeting held here yesterday, a Star India representative, according to BIS sources, opined that inter-operability or an open architecture would make starting a DTH service in India difficult as it is "not a workable model" to follow.

The reasons given, according to the sources, was that if an open architecture STB is insisted upon by the government, then it would make the STB expensive and difficult for a would-be service provider to subsidise the STB as exclusivity and captive consumers would not be assured.

Thomson India and CETMA, the apex body of consumer electronics goods manufacturers in India, supported the stand of Star, said to be represented by the Mumbai-based head of the company's DTH operations in India. The information and broadcasting ministry had referred to the BIS the issue of specifications for STBs for DTH last year.

What does the government mean by an open architecture? In layman's language it means that if a consumer buys a STB for a KU-band DTH service in India, then the STB should be capable of working if the smart card of another DTH service provider is inserted in it. This theory is based on the presumption that there would be several DTH service providers in India, though globally, this sector works best with monopoly or at best a duopoly.

Though BIS today made it clear it has to work within the DTH policy framework, announced by the government late 2000, some time back officials of the BIS had admitted to in private that an open architecture, as being insisted by the government, is a very difficult modele to adhere to as its prevalence is rare worldwide and would make the whole operation costlier for the consumer.

Still, there are people in the broadcasting and cable industry who feel that open architecture is a possibility and the interest of the consumer would be protected.

A debate, it seems, that will take some more time before a working consensus emerges.

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