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Monday, July 25, 2016

The need for DTH portability

Mobile number portability has brought in a sea-change in the telecom sector in the country and for the millions of mobile users. With the advantages so obviously gained from the implementation of mobile number portability, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has started formulating policy for portability in another sector that could be as advantageous to consumers - Direct to Home (DTH). DTH and Cable TV portability, which would enable customers to port between different service providers without having to change hardware, is important for consumers and the industry. Especially when set top boxes, an integral part of DTH service hardware, worth around `5025 crore are lying idle in the country according to industry reports, contributing only to the thriving e-waste jungle. While Trai’s process to formulate policy has already started, the real question is when it will it happen. And what it will mean to consumers and industry both. The players in the field point out that there are technical issues in implementing DTH portability and point out that they had already invested heavily on set top boxes. Consumers, meanwhile, are of the opinion that it should come at any cost. As of now, cable operators and DTH service providers offer their services bundled with a set-top box which comes at a cost of `1,500 to `2,000. However, if a consumer is not satisfied with his service provider, he or she is forced to buy a new set-top box from another operator, because there is no option of portability. Even the amount paid for the box is non-refundable.

DTH, cable TV portability allows consumers to change operators without changing set-top box. This will help consumers immensely and will promote competition while improving quality of services. Also it is likely to bring down the cost of set-top box. “It is in the best interest of the consumer. Even though the customer pays the cost of a set top box, it remains the property of the DTH company. The customer has to sign an agreement in this regard. Thus the subscriber becomes a slave of the service provider. It is high-time that the government intervene and implement portability,” pointed out Roop Sharma, President, Cable Operators Federation of India. He also added that there should be a policy change to make set top boxes available in the market, like mobile handsets. “The smart card which is used to view channels can be purchased from the operator (like a sim card). If a customer dislikes the service he or she should be able to switch to another service provider,” he said. As per the report submitted by DTH Operators to TRAI, around 8.5 crore set top boxes have been either sold or provided subscribers in the market. Out which only around 5.5 crore are in active mode. Around three crore such boxes are lying idle or unused, mainly because of non-interoperability.

“The interoperability of set up box is the need of the day and should have been done long back. It seems the condition relating to interoperability of the set top box has been a part of the license conditions from the beginning but no progress has been made on this issue because of the differences between the various operators themselves. While framing rules on interoperability it is necessary to finalise the commercial conditions as well such as who owns the set top box, who will be responsible for customer premises service for these boxes,” said Narender Gupta, Founder and CEO, Tathya Consulting, one of the customers who responded to the TRAI consultation paper on portability. According to Saharsh Damani, Secretary General, All India Digital Cable Federation, TRAI should form a committee of technical and commercial people to create guidelines and technical framework for the set top box interoperability. “The set top boxes currently lying in stock should be allowed to be seeded in future as well when the interoperability comes into play,” he said. However, players in the sector are not seeing DTH portability happening in the near future. “There are technical issues which prevents DTH portability to become a reality in the near fututre. An expert committee should be formed to resolve these technical problems,” said U V Satyanarayana, Assistant Vice President (Digital), Asianet Satellite Communications. Echoing same opinion, R C Venkateish, Former CEO Dish TV, an expert in the field, said that the possibility of DTH portability is very low in the country. “The present technology prevailing in the country do not allow such a portability,” he says.

Source and credit:- http://www.newindianexpress.com/business/news/The-need-for-DTH-portability/2016/07/24/article3543945.ece
Forwarded By:- Shri. Jainender Nigam, PB NewsDesk, prasarbharati.newsdeskgmail.com

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