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TRAI prefers industry-driven guidelines instead of mandating directives: SK Gupta

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GOA: Even as he reiterated that there will be no further extension of date for the third phase of Digital Addressable System (DAS) slated for 31 December, 2015, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) principal advisor  SK Gupta stressed the need of industry-driven guidelines instead of those mandated by the regulators.

Pointing out that many lessons had been learnt from implementation of the first two phases of DAS, Gupta also stressed that the consumer was king and all policy decisions including tariffs had to be made with him in mind.

Addressing the concluding session of the Indian Digital Operators Summit (IDOS) 2015, through teleconferencing from Delhi, Gupta accepted a suggestion for the need of a ‘supra-body’ other than the Task Force to go into these issues and solve problems that arise during implementation. 

IDOS 2015 was organised by Indiantelevision.com and Media Partners Asia from 24 to 26 September in Goa.

Gupta was of the opinion that the consumer’s choice was neglected and he was forced to pay for bundling of channels or bouquets instead of a la carte rates, which may not give him the channels he wants.

At the outset, he said that there the industry had seen a sizeable growth. “The number of cable households have gone up from 79 million in 2006 to over 101 million at present. The number of channels have gone up to over 800,” he said.

However, he added that though the number of channels have grown to over 800 in India, the driver channels totalled to just around 50.

Furthermore, he said that customer still face billing problems and it wasn’t easy for them to switch to another operator. “The stakeholders must jointly resolve these issues. It has to be understood that it will not be easy to get customer to pay more,” he said.

Pointing out that the increase in average revenue per user (ARPU) is illusory, if the system was faulty, Gupta asked stakeholders to reflect on it jointly. However, he was quick to add that this may not be possible, given “the level of infighting within the sector.”

Gupta also urged the broadcasting sector to take a few lessons from the telecom sector, which had also begun with lot of litigations but had then realised that collaboration was the only way to go ahead. “Today they are prepared to share and sell spectrum and have accepted mobile portability. As a result, there has been tremendous growth in the telecom sector,” he said.

Speaking on broadband, Gupta said, “Lowering the price of broadband is do-able if set top boxes could provide both television and broadband. TRAI gave its recommendations in this regard to the Government in January this year. This will herald the start of a new era in broadband growth.”

“Stakeholders need to realise that the concept of television or video watching is moving to mono-viewing,” he said.

While it was for the stakeholders to find ways to get the customer to fill the Common Assessment Framework (CAF) forms, Gupta said that lessons learnt from the first two phases should help. TRAI would “like to see consensus,” he said.

Gupta also said that while TRAI had its offices in many centres of the country, he would urge the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to send proper instructions to nodal officers in the Phase III and Phase IV areas. His remark came following a complaint that most nodal officers in smaller towns were still not clear about their role in DAS.

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