Regulators

FTA subscription sharing: TDSAT for expanded review by Trai

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NEW DELHI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has sent back the case related to MSO?s demanding a share of the Rs 77 for FTAs to be paid by consumers under the Cas regime, for an expanded review by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai).

The tribunal, in its order issued yesterday, said that the process would have to be completed within six weeks.

According to the TDSAT, since the case is of great importance and has wide repercussions, Trai should also incorporate the views of all stakeholders, including those of the cable operators.

Wire and Wireless India Limited (formerly Siticable) had filed the case against the 31 August, 2006, order by Trai, giving to the cable operators the entire Rs 77 that consumers pay for Free-to-air channels under the Cas regime.

?We said that if this is done under the Cas regime, the Rs 75-odd in fees that we get for carrying pay channels will not even cover our variable costs, let alone overheads,? Arvind Mohan, vice president, WWIL, told Indiantelevision.com.

In the court the WWIL counsel proffered his logic, stating that Trai had said that while cable operators could keep the Rs 77, MSOs could keep the subscription from pay channels, as well as the carriage fees.

However, the subscription for the pay channels would also be shared between MSOs and LMOs as well as broadcasters, as per a Trai formula.

?Carriage fees? are the amount charged by MSOs for carrying a certain pay channel in the ?prime band? or ?colour band?, that is, special, viewer-preferred slots. This was applicable when the channels were streamed in the analogue system, because in that system, the number of channels would be limited to a maximum of 60.

Under the Cas system, where digitalisation is compulsory, the number of channels shown can be innumerable, theoretically, and not less than 600, or 10 times that under the analogue system.

WWIL argued today that Trai itself had gone on record that ?carriage fees? are a temporary phenomena and would disappear under the Cas regime, because the carrying capacity would shoot up from 60 to at least 600. Hence, the MSOs would lose that avenue of revenue.

Trai argued that sharing of the FTA purse would lead to disputes and hence it had opted for a simple formula that MSOs could keep the carriage fees and the cable operators could keep the Rs 77 from the consumer subscription for FTAs.

The tribunal, however, felt that he matter was seminal and the views of all the stakeholders need to be incorporated, and asked Trai to file the response of the views of all parties concerned within six weeks.

Incidentally, this is the second time in two weeks that TDSAT has asked Trai to review aspects of an important case. The first was last week when TDSAT asked Trai to give their views on transponder capacity issue after examination of the facts. That case too, had been filed by Siticable, now known as WWIL.

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