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India's Leading Source for Broadcasting & Broadband Information - CableQuest Magazine
HomeArticlesDTHDTH to Ensure Quality
Sunday, 21 October 2007 00:00

DTH to Ensure Quality

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The DTH guidelines and licensing conditions were issued by the Government of India in 2001. Doordarshan has been offering free-to-air DTH services to its customers for some time. Subsequently, two DTH operators offering pay DTH services have also rolled out their operations. However, it is only in the last one year that these two pay DTH operators could offer popular TV channels and content and thus gain acceptance among the consumers. Four more pay DTH operators are either in the process of rolling out their services, or in the process of getting DTH licenses. One of the reasons for the delay in rolling out DTH services was the difficulty faced by the broadcasters and the DTH operators in concluding their interconnection agreements on time, and the issue in two such cases had to be resolved by the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), This not only affected the growth of the sector, it also hampered competition because DTH at present is the only effective alternative to cable TV. There are about 3.2 million subscribers of pay DTH services, as compared to nearly 70 million subscribers for cable TV. For DTH to provide effective competition, TRAI issued the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable Services) Interconnection (Fourth Amendment) Regulation, 2007 and Quality of Service Regulations. Both these regulations will come in effect from 1st December 2007. The salient features of the Interconnection Amendment Regulation are as follows:

(i) Every broadcaster will publish, within 90 days of these amendments taking effect, its Reference Interconnect Offer (RIO) for the DTH operators containing technical and commercial terms for interconnection. 

(ii) Such RIO shall contain the following details, among others, 

• Rates of channels and bouquets, 

• Details of discounts, 

• Payment terms, 

• Security and anti-piracy requirements, 

• Subscriber base reports and audit 

• Tenure of agreement. 

(iii) The RIO will be published on the broadcaster's website and also communicated to each DTH operator. RIOs existing, if any, prior to these regulations will be modified to conform to the RIO now published under these regulations. 

(iv) If a DTH operator makes a request to a broadcaster to enter into an interconnection agreement based on the published RIO, then the broadcaster will be obliged to do so within 45 days of the request, 

(v) The broadcasters and DTH operators may also enter into mutual agreements on non-discriminatory basis by deviating from the RIO. 

(vi) If the broadcaster and the DTH operator fail to enter into an interconnection agreement after negotiations, then both of them may jointly request TRAI to facilitate in arriving at an agreement. This will be without prejudice to the legal recourse available to them. 

(vii) All broadcasters will compulsorily offer all their channels on a-la-carte basis to DTH operators. Additionally, they may also offer bouquets, but they will not compel any DTH operator to include the entire bouquet in any package being offered by DTH operators to their subscribers. 

(viii) In case a DTH operator includes various pay channels of a broadcaster's bouquet in different DTH packages for its subscribers, then the payment for the bouquet will be made by the DTH operator to the broadcaster based on the highest subscriber base for any pay channel from that bouquet. 

(ix) The a-la-carte rates of pay channels and the rates of the bouquets offered by the broadcasters to DTH operators shall be so related that 

1) The sum of a-la-carte rates of pay channels in a bouquet does not exceed 1.5 times the bouquet rate; and 

2) No a-la-carte rate of a pay channel in a bouquet will be more than 3 times the average pay channel rate of that bouquet. 

(x) TRAI will have the power to intervene and ask any broadcaster to modify its published RIO, on grounds of protecting the interests of consumers or service providers, orderly growth of the sector, or for not being in conformity with these regulations. 


Standards of Quality of Service

In addition to the above regulations, TRAI also issued the Direct to Home Broadcasting Services (Standards of Quality of Service and Redressal of Grievances) Regulation, 2007, which essentially covers regulatory provisions relating to protection of the interests of DTH subscribers. 

The salient features of the DTH QoS Regulations are as follows: 

i) The DTH operator will formulate schemes to offer Customer Premises Equipments (including the set top box) to its subscribers on outright purchase basis, hire-purchase basis and rental basis. Authority may also prescribe suitable schemes in this regard in future if necessary. 

ii) The DTH operator, while formulating its scheme for hire-purchase, will make provision for refund to be given to subscribers if they choose to return the customer premises equipment. This facility, together with rental scheme, is expected to provide commercial interoperability to DTH subscribers in addition to technical interoperability which is already there in DTH licensing conditions. 

iii) The DTH operator will devise the format for application form, and will assign a customer identification number to each such application received. 

iv) A time limit of 5 working days has been prescribed for complying with requests relating to shifting, disconnection and reconnection. 

v)DTH operator will give notice for discontinuing a channel or for disconnecting a subscriber. 

vi) DTH operator will not disable the set top box (STB) if the subscriber has opted out of his service. This will enable the DTH subscriber to use the STB for receiving other DTH services. 

vii) The subscription package offered to a subscriber will not be changed for 6 months. However, the subscriber can opt out of a particular package for any other package at any time. 

viii)Post paid subscribers, if any, will be issued bills containing details such as charges for subscription package, value added services, customer premises equipments, taxes etc. 

ix) DTH operator will establish call centres with sufficient number of telephone lines with "toll free" numbers, such that the benchmarks relating to response time are met (e.g., 80% calls to be answered within 60 seconds in case of voice operators and within 20 seconds if answered electronically, etc.). 

x) Each request or complaint to a call centre to be assigned a docket number. 

xi) 90% of complaints regarding non-receipt of signals to be redressed within 24 hours and 90% of other type of complaints to be redressed within 48 hours. No complaint to remain pending beyond 5 days. All billing complaints to be redressed within 7 days. 

xii) DTH operators will nominate Nodal Officers for redressal of grievances of those subscribers who are not satisfied with the redressal at call centre level. 

xiii) The Nodal Officer will redress the grievances within 10 days of registering of the complaint. 

xiv) Complaints received by TRAI and forwarded to DTH operator will be redressed within 15 days of forwarding, and outcome intimatedboth to the subscriber as well as to TRAI. 

xv) DTH operator will prepare a manual containing details such as benchmarks for grievance redressal, call centres, Nodal Officers, operating instructions for STB, etc. Acopy of the same to be supplied to each subscriber. 

It is expected that these amendments will go a long way in resolving the interconnection issues between the broadcasters and the DTH operators, which will in turn lead to greater competition between the two delivery platforms of cable TV and DTH service, bringing considerable benefit to the consumers. 

The full text of these Regulations is available on TRAI's website www.trai.gov.in.

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