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Broadcasters, DTH companies attend TRAI session on STB Interoperability through downloadable CAS

TRAI wants to achieve STB interoperability by the year end

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MUMBAI:  Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Thursday conducted a workshop to discuss the Downloadable CAS based solution to implement STB interoperability its headquarters.

The workshop was attended by more than 60 participants representing leading broadcasters, direct-to-home (DTH) operators, Multi Systems Operators (MSOs), SOC vendors, CAS suppliers, STB manufacturers and system integrators.

TRAI promulgated the new regulatory framework for Broadcast and Cable Television sector, after a long process of intensive deliberations with various stakeholders, effective from 29 December 2018.

Transparency, non-discrimination, and protection of consumer interest are the cornerstones of this new framework. For the consumer, freedom of choice and paying only for the chosen channel is the underlying objective of the new framework.

Choice entails the freedom to avail better service-offerings by various players in the market. As a logical next step towards this objective, TRAI has been exploring the important issue of inter-operability of STB.

Presently, a consumer is bound to her/his service provider as each STB is bound to the service provider. In case a consumer wishes to change the service provider, the consumer is required to invest in a new STB, thereby forcing a cost to such switchover.

Many STB's of erstwhile service provider remains unused, thereby creating huge electronic waste. Inter-operability of STB is also desirable for the creation of open and competitive market bringing in the advantage of the volume of scale and consumer preference.

TRAI has been engaging with the stakeholders for the last two years for introducing STB interoperability. The issue has its own challenges with - disparate interest' groups among Distribution Platform Owners, CAS vendors, STB manufacturers, and other stakeholders. The broadcasting sector being content-centric, the security of content and robust anti-piracy features is necessary.

Affordability of STB remains an important criterion and the suggested solution should not cause an undue increase in the price of STB. Ensuring proper content security, strong anti-piracy features, and flexibility (to service providers for offering value-added-services) while keeping the STB costs reasonable are the main challenges for achieving STB interoperability.

There are few possible solutions for achieving interoperability in a unidirectional broadcast network. This includes a smart-card based solution designed by C-DOT. Another solution, using a simul-crypt allowing downloadable-CAS has now been proposed. The authority is working with system integrators, SOC vendors, CAS providers and other stakeholders for technical discussions.

After detailed consultations, a Proof-of-Concept (POC) Testing of the proposed solution will be arranged. A successful POC testing will address the vital concerns of industry stakeholders related to security, piracy, and practicality.

Speaking on the occasion TRAI chairman R.S. Sharma highlighted that consumer interest remains the focus of the regulator.

"The interoperability brings the economies of scale, freedom of choice promotes competition that results in the overall growth of the sector", he said.

STB interoperability is very important to empower the consumer and engender further growth in the broadcasting sectors. Based on the experience of Mobile Number Portability, it is certain that interoperability will promote competition and will be a win-win for all stakeholders on medium to long term basis.

TRAI will further deliberate with the stakeholders to identify the gaps, if any in the proposed solution before taking up the Proof-of-Concept testing. The regulator expects that involvement and support of all the industry stakeholders will help in developing the acceptable solution for STB interoperability by the year-end.

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