Q . What are the main criteria for selecting a CAS solution?
HL: The first and the foremost thing in selecting a CAS solution are:
to check the financial background of the company, the experience the company has in India and globally
the depth of the product portfolio in one-way CAS, two-way CAS for Cable, OTT, Satellite etc.
the local support and training infrastructure the company has in India.
The operator should also ask whether the Set top boxes use “secured” chips or are they using only “simple generic” chips.
They should ask whether the CAS system complies to the TRAI regulations,
Scalability of the system
Ability to work with a scalable SMS system
Ability to work with independent middleware offering revenue generating features such advanced advertising, advanced PVR functions, Regional fonts etc. across different makes of chipsets.
Q. Suitability of a Cardless CAS in cable system?
HL: A cardless CAS in a cable system with a “secured chipset” offers a cost effective solution to the cable operator/MSO. It offers similar functionalities and hassle free logistics as no Smart cards are required.
Q. How can the operator keep his initial investment low and let the system grow as his business grows?
HL: The operator can start with a “integrated” CAS and Middleware system to keep the investments low and ensure that the “integrated” CAS and Middleware system is scalable to allow expansions for future growth.
It is important to note that the cost of adding a Middleware in future is much more expensive and should be avoided as far as possible.
Q . Should one select a scalable CAS solutions.
HL: Our CAS systems can support as low as 10,000 subscribers and scale to more than 30 Million subscribers. The important point to note is the Operating System and the Database that the CAS system uses. The cable operator has to ensure that the CAS system implements a robust, scalable, redundant Operating System and the database.
Q . How to select an SMS & Billing systems so that it can be integrated with the CAS without any problem?
HL: First and foremost the SMS and Billing systems should be seamlessly integrated with the CAS system and the vendors need to demonstrate this. It must comply to all the TRAI recommendations. The SMS and Billing Vendor should provide an easy to use interface for the operators to perform day to day operation. The SMS and Billing system should be flexible to make changes as and when required and the vendor should have enough local expertise and adequate resources to support the cable operator.
Q. What are the must see features of a reasonably good SMS & Billing systems?
HL: The operators are trying for the automated system which will give them the error free database. Hence, the SMS and Billing system must be able to integrate with Telco grade Short Messaging Gateways, external payment gateways, web portals and smart phone apps.
Q. What problems can one face after selecting an off the shelf economical SMS & Billing software.
HL: The standard problem we have seen is that the integration with the CAS as they have to make changes in their existing software which takes lots of time. Also, it becomes difficult to adopt new changes in the business workflow in a short time.
Q. Can the operator go in for different vendors for CAS and Billing Software?
HL: Although, technically this is possible, but operationally, it becomes difficult to manage multiple systems, multiple software and hardware upgrades and ensuring that the operations teams are well trained to support such complexity. In addition, there is no guarantee that a particular business requirement will work seamlessly across different solutions.
Q. What features are essential in the most economical middleware?
HL: In selecting a middleware, the operators need to make a thorough assessment of the following:
The different types of chipsets that the Middleware supports.
Who is the single point of contact? The CAS vendor, the STB vendor or the Middleware vendor. Generally, the CAS vendor becomes the single point of contact.
It should have user friendly look and feel so that consumers of any age can operate easily
It should have facility to set reminders, set the favorite channels, Search Feature, Parental Control and channel lock.
It should provide for Media Player support via a USB port to view family photographs, listen to audio, watch video.
It should support via external USB the Personal Video Recording with series linking, conflict management, trick modes, instant recording, time shift recording, hard disk space management etc.
It should allow operators to push advertisement without doing a software upgrade for revenue generation
It should allow Popups, Mails, Fingerprinting, Account Management, Genre support etc.
It should support local languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu etc.
It should support 3rd party applications and widgets.
10. What should an operator expect while integrating a middleware with rest of the system?
First, the operator must identify a single point of contact – “Systems Integrator” – who will be responsible to co-ordinate with all vendors such as CAS vendor, STB vendor, chipset vendor, Middleware vendor, SMS vendor etc. The operator needs to take into account the chipset features, the experiences of the CAS/STB/Middleware vendors, the memory inside the STB and the business features that the operator is looking at.