Regulators

TRAI suggests interoperability methods for DTH consumers; issues draft tariff order

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NEW DELHI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a draft Tariff Order (TO) for consultation with stakeholders prescribing a framework for commercial interoperability of Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) offered by the Direct-to-Home (DTH) operators to their subscribers.

In the DTH sector, as on date, CPEs deployed by one operator may not be compatible with the network of another operator and a subscriber cannot migrate to another operator or platform without re-investing in another CPE.

TRAI has placed the Draft on its website along with a Consultation Paper and wants views of stakeholders by 13 March, 2015.

DTH services in India have been growing at a rapid pace since they were introduced in 2003. As on December 2014, the number of registered pay DTH subscribers has reached a figure of 73 million. The number of private DTH operators has also grown from one operator in 2003 to six operators today. These operators have launched their services at different points of time, deploying different transmission and compression standards and encryption solutions.

In DTH services, a subscriber needs Customer Premises Equipment (CPE) to be connected with the television set for reception of programmes as the signal received at his premises is in digital form and encrypted. CPE consists of an outdoor unit comprising a dish antenna, Low Noise Block Converter with Feed-horn (LNBF), cable and connectors. The indoor unit primarily comprises a Set-Top-Box (STB) along with a remote control. Since variegated technologies co-exist, the CPEs deployed by one operator may not be compatible with the network of another operator, hampering migration of the subscriber from one operator to another; in case the subscriber wishes to migrate, he cannot do so without re-investing in another CPE.

The Authority says the interests of subscribers in this regard can be largely protected through the provision for commercial interoperability of CPEs. Commercial interoperability provides for a viable exit option to the subscribers in case they want to switch operator /platform.

The draft is aimed at striking a balance between the interests of the consumers and that of the service providers, as well as to curb piling up of e-waste on account of CPEs.

The draft provides for declaration of the price of all types of CPEs, installation and activation charges and applicable taxes on CPEs by the DTH operators; mandatory offering of standard scheme for all type of CPEs on a standalone basis by DTH operators, specifying separately the price of CPE, taxes, other charges etc; flexibility to DTH operators to offer other schemes; and flexibility to DTH operators to offer brand new as well as refurbished CPEs.

This paper also refers to provision of buy-back/refund option in all the offered schemes, including bundled schemes for CPEs; mechanism for buy-back/refund in the standard and other schemes for CPEs; provision of lock-in period for the purpose of refund in the offered schemes for CPEs if the subscriber wants to switch from one operator to the other; applicability of buy-back/refund option for all types of offered CPEs; option for the DTH operators to redeploy the surrendered CPEs; mechanism for registration of request for surrender of connection; and time-limit to settle refund/buy-back claims of the subscribers.

Click here to read the full consultation paper

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