IBF, AIDCF say STB interoperability unviable in current conditions

Industry stakeholders can share their counter-comments by 30 December

MUMBAI:  Universal interoperability of STBs in cable and DTH is not viable in the given conditions, Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) and All India Digital and Cable Federation (AIDCF) said in response to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)’s consultation paper on the (set top box) STB interoperability.

Both associations suggested the authority to understand and analyse the transition of STB interoperability on the broadcasting ecosystem, with no disruption to the pay TV system before proceeding further on the consultation paper.

The authority on 11 November had released a consultation paper on interoperable STBs for digital TV broadcasting services. It had sought comments from all stakeholders on the best solution to implement the STB interoperability.

AIDCF brought to TRAI’s notice that DPOs and MSOs have invested a huge amount in the STB system to adapt the process of digitisation. And, any sudden change could put DPOs and MSOs in financial risk, which eventually could lead to job losses.

The associations urged the authority to review the adherence of license conditions of the DTH operators at the field and analyse the behaviour of subscribers with respect to migration from one DTH Player to another.

Even after the merger of Videocon and Dish TV the platforms are maintaining their separate systems and set top boxes due to no interoperability.  

AIDCF in its comments said, around 40 million households, availing Free Dish broadcasting services, are using the non-interoperable STBs. The implementation of STB-interoperability would force subscribers to purchase new STBs while shifting to alternate service providers/DPOs.

Similarly, investment of interoperable STBs is likely to be passed on to the subscribers, which would lead to a rise in consumer price for viewing cable services, added AIDCF.  

Meanwhile, IBF said: “The authority, in the present consultation paper has stated that though there is de-jure technical interoperability but there is de-facto technical non-interoperability. Despite the presence of provisions relating to interoperability in the existing DTH guidelines, the concept has not yet been implemented owing primarily to the inability to provide get solutions.”

IBF has also requested the authority to consider the preliminary submissions related to the viability of implementation of STBs: cost, safeguarding content, and no compromise on security, while contemplating any options for the implementation of STB interoperability.  

“To proceed any further with the consultation, it would be most useful and relevant to conduct a technical and operational session to get a better understanding of the technology and possibly emerge with a proof of concept, prior to commenting on the technology and viability,” IBF suggested.

The association believes that the introduction of STB interoperability would require a number of technological as well as operational capabilities and change thereby fostering the necessity to introduce content security provisions and anti-piracy mechanisms.

They have also asked the authority to ensure that the expenditure incurred in acquainting the STBs with interoperability features, does not get irrationally passed on to consumers and that they are not burdened with the increased costs incurred.

Most importantly, any regulatory provisions should be mandated after confirming viability, quality and standards of the emerging technology and should ensure that the security of the CAS, SMS and other related addressable systems of the DPOs is not compromised and is not susceptible to piracy.

IBF also raised a concern over Embedded Common Interface (ECI), a solution considered by TRAI to achieve interoperability.

“ECI does not meet the content security and technology needs of major content providers. ECP includes strong content security features and the ability to forensically watermark content distributed on home devices, set-top boxes, etc. ECI falls short of the ECP requirements. In particular, ECI does not require watermarking and does not create a secure location for a watermark,” IBF added.

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