Regulators

TRAI starts process of STBs' interoperability, issues consultation note

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NEW DELHI: Realising that lack of technical interoperability of set-top boxes creates problems for consumers wanting to switch over to another service provider, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India today issued a consultation note on the solution architecture for technically interoperable STBs after receiving 28 comments to a pre-consultation note issued on 4 April 2016.

All stakeholders which include CAS providers, SoC vendors, middleware providers, EPG solution providers, STB manufacturers, smart card providers, and service providers like Broadcasters, Multi System Operators, and DTH operators are requested to provide their written comments on the proposed solution architecture for technical interoperable STBs by 25 August 2017.

Subsequently, TRAI is planning to organise a workshop on proposed solution architecture for technically interoperable STB during the first fortnight of September 2017 to elaborate in detail on various technical aspects commented upon by the stakeholders in response to this consultation note.

After incorporation of comments received from the stakeholders and the workshop, TRAI will be launching a pilot project on STB interoperability. Entities interested in pilot projects for deployment of Interoperable STBs can also send their details to TRAI.

TRAI said this inter-operability between different service providers has an adverse effect on competition and service quality in the Pay-TV distribution market. Non-availability of STB in an open market is also a major hindrance to technological innovations. Whenever, a consumer changes its service provider, the STB of existing service provider becomes useless as the same STB cannot be used; resulting in electronic waste (e-waste). The availability of practical solution which can provide technical interoperability of STB is always desirable.

The framework of interoperable STB should ensure the following:

a. The level of security should be similar to or better than what is present today.

b. The framework must be sound enough to prevent reception of services by unauthorized persons.

c. The prices of the interoperable STBs should remain comparable to non-interoperable STBs.

d. The portability cost should reduce considerably

e. The DPOs should be able to choose security solutions (Conditional Access System) as per their requirements.

f. The proposed solution must be able to identify pirates, if any

g. The User Interface (UI) and Electronic Program Guide (EPG) format customization.

h. The framework should ensure that TV channels with EPG listing continue toØ be available to the consumers on migration to another operator.

At the outset, TRAI said digital TV broadcasting services can be received by a subscriber using STB which is connected with the TV set (sometimes the STB is in-built in the TV set). The STB receives TV signals from distribution network and decodes them into viewable form on a TV set. STB enables the subscriber to view only those TV channels which he/she has subscribed.

Cable TV and direct-to-home (DTH) platforms are the major distribution platforms for delivery of TV broadcasting services in India. Whereas, the DTH services delivered in digital mode since beginning, the migration of cable TV services, from analogue to digital, has also been completed with implementation of Digital Addressable Cable TV systems (DAS) in the country.

Presently, Distribution Platform Operator (DPO) provides STB, which is compatible with his network to provide services to subscriber. Over a period of time, variety of technologies has been deployed by DPOs into the networks. It has led to a situation where STBs provided by one operator are not compatible with the system of the other operator. This impedes portability of a subscriber from one operator to another in case he wishes to do so

TRAI collaborated with IIT-Bombay and Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT). The issues identified by stakeholders in response to the pre-consultation paper were communicated to C-DOT and IIT-Bombay. Now C-DOT, the telecom technology development centre of the Government of India, in close coordination with TRAI, has developed a solution for interoperable STBs. Describing the same, C-DOT has provided TRAI, a copy of the document titled “C-DOT framework and feature requirements for the ecosystem entities towards implementation of STB interoperability framework.”

Through this consultation note, TRAI presents the solution architecture for technically interoperable STB to all the concerned stakeholders to seek their comments on proposed solution.

Some of the reasons for non-interoperability of STBs and the C-DOT framework and feature requirements for the ecosystem entities towards implementation of STB interoperability framework” are available on trai.gov.in.

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