Panel of experts checks possibility of STB inter-operability: TRAI

NEW DELHI: A panel of 12 experts from institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology Mumbai and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore is working on the challenge of overcoming the problem relating to inter-operability of set top boxes (STB). Even though it has already issued a consultation paper on the subject, broadcast regulator Telecom Reguatory Authority of India has still to find solutions for inter-operability of STBs.

TRAI chairman R S Sharma said inter-operability of STBs was a major programme in the interest of the consumers as this would help consumers get better service from their service providers who would be aware that one can switch to another operator if not satisfied with a service.

He said he was aware that many felt that it is not possible to have a common STB because of security reasons and the need of broadcasters to keep their content encrypted and safe from piracy.

“Because it is essentially a technology issue, we have brought on board professors from IITs and other institutions to look at it from a technology perspective," Sharma said adding that C-DoT is the technology partner in this venture.

TRAI is attempting to find a solution to this problem as soon as possible, Sharma told a press meet.

The press meet was held to apprise the media about the spate of consultation papers and other decisions taken by TRAI in recent weeks.  (Earlier, it is learnt by that some broadcasters also called on Sharma to discuss various issues.)

TRAI officials said while a common STB for cable services may be a bit easier as shown by lab tests, another challenge is bringing STBs which are inter-operable between cable as well DTH operators.

Another major initiative, for which TRAI has initiated a consultation process in the broadcasting sector is ensuring that the broadcasters share infrastructure. Sharma, said that "learning from the Telecom sector" where competitors also share towers, it is being examined if such a practice can be instilled in the broadcasting sector.

Referring to sharing of infrastructure by broadcasters as suggested by the regulator in its latest paper, TRAI officials said different broadcasters are using different satellite system to carry the same channels.

"The idea is whether there is a need to have a different head-end, or different optical fibre network or different satellite system and if we can combine, are we not able to reduce the cost of operations," a TRAI official said.

The official said that while broadcasters have been initially "closed" to this idea, they were positive that the idea may yield results as seen from the example in the telecom sector.

The TRAI official said that are some licensing conditions which do not allow sharing of infrastructure. After consultations, the regulator would work to see that a proper framework can be provided which allows sharing of infrastructure by broadcasters.

TRAI is also pushing for provision of broadband services through the cable sector, officials added. The regulator is also working to create guidelines for audience measurement for radio and guidelines, officials said.

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