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HomeArticlesRegulationsThe Regulator is preparing an Audit Manual for DPOs to facilitate smooth interconnection
Saturday, 20 July 2019 11:02

The Regulator is preparing an Audit Manual for DPOs to facilitate smooth interconnection

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Commercial & Technical Audit of DPOs is a Must TRAI

On 29 March 2019, the telecom regulator TRAI issued a consultation paper on the "Telecommunication (broadcast and cable) Services Digital Addressable Systems Audit Manual". After extension of the dates, the last date for sending comments was 29 April 2019 and 6 May 2019 for counter comments. TRAI is seeking interest from empanelment of auditors to undertake an audit of digital addressable systems of DPOs. Eligible audit firms can compete. 

"Addressable system" means an electronic device (which includes hardware and its associated software) or more than one electronic device put in an integrated system through which transmission of programmes including re-transmission of signals of television channels can be done in encrypted form, which can be decoded by the device or devices at the premises of the subscriber within the limits of the authorization made, on the choice and request of such subscriber, by the distributor of television channels.  

Keeping in view the implementation of Digital Addressable Systems(DAS) and effectively utilizing its benefits, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) after due consultation process brought out a common regulatory framework for digital addressable systems on 3rd March 2017. This framework comprises of Interconnection Regulations, Quality of Service Regulations and Tariff Order for providing broadcasting services relating to television through digital addressable system. 

The Interconnection regulations namely the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017 dated 3rd March 2017 (herein after the Inter connection Regulations, 2017) cover technical and commercial arrangements between Broadcaster & Distributor and Distributor& Local Cable Operators (LCOs) for providing television services to the consumers. 

This draft Audit Manual is a preparatory work before issuing the final Audit Manual and has no direct bearing on any on going litigations. 

In the DAS based TV services value chain, a broadcaster up links signals of pay television channel to satellite in encrypted form. The distributor receives the signals from the satellite and decodes them using the decoder provided by the broadcaster. After processing and merging the TV Channel signals of multiple broadcasters the distributor encrypts the combined signals and retransmits it further, either directly or through local cable operator, to customer. The distributor could be a Multi-System Operator(MSO), a Direct to Home operator (DTH), a Head-end in The Sky operator (HITS) or IPTV operator. 

The Audits are to be carried out in the following cases: 

a. Pre-signal audit as per Regulation 10(7) of the Interconnection Regulations, also referred to as Technical Audit. 

b. A separate commercial audit under Regulation 15 of the Interconnection Regulations, which comprises of both Subscriber and Technical Audit. 

The Auditors' main role and responsibility is to carry out the above technical and subscription audits in an objective, transparent, impartial manner as per the Interconnection Regulations, 2017. 

While conducting audits at new head-ends seeking signals that has no active subscribers/live customer, auditor may issue only provisional certificates valid only for six months for such new head-ends. It is incumbent upon the Auditor to revali date such head-end system again within 6 months from the commercial launch of the services. The final certificate may be issued, only after ascertaining full compliance with Schedule III, of the Interconnection Regulations, 2017. 

Each DPO should cause an audit and provide audit report. As the implementation of the New Regulations has been completed on 28thDecember 2018, all the DPOs must initiate their Audit as soon as possible. If a Broadcaster is not satisfied with the Audit Report based on the Audit caused by DPO, such Broadcaster may initiate an audit. 

Once an interconnect agreement has been signed between a Broadcaster and DPO, if any changes, modification and alterations are made to the configuration or version of the addressable system(CAS, SMS and other related systems) of the DPO and/ordistribution network of DPOs ("Changes"), then these should be notified within seven days to the relevant Broadcasters. DPO to provide an undertaking that the changes do not in any way compromise the system and the set-up and all the equipment including software meets the statutory compliance requirements. In such cases, the Broadcaster may, if deemed necessary can take action. 

Scope of Work for Audit

The intent of the audit is to ensure that: 

• All the equipment and systems deployed are fully compliant with the regulatory requirements 

• Veracity of system configuration and authenticity of various techno-commercial parameters including subscription report. 

The audit shall include the following: 

i. Head-end Audit 

ii. CAS/ DRM audit 

iii. SMS audit including subscriber report 

iv. CAS and DRM integration with SMS 

v. STB audit 

vi. Network Audit4 

vii. Anti-piracy measures 

viii. Physical verification & checking of Broadcasters' Integrated 

Receiver Decoders (IRDs) 

ix. TS recording at field – TS recording information from IBF/NBA. 

In the event of challenge audit caused by any broadcaster, such 

TS recordings shall be necessarily provided by the broadcaster challenging the audit. 

x. Seeking ground sample information from IBF/NBA: DPO will inform IBF and NBA the date on which audit will be conducted at least 10 days in advance. IBF/NBA may provide ground sample information which shall be checked by the Auditor. 

Summary of issues for consultation: 

Q1. Whether it should be mandatory for every DPO to notify the broadcasters (whose channels are being carried by the DPO) for every change made in the addressable system (CAS, SMS and other related systems)? 

Q2. Whether the Laptop is to be necessarily provided by the Auditee DPO or the Audit Agency may also provide the Laptop? 

Q3. Whether the Configuration of Laptop vide Annexure 1 issuitable? If not, please provide alternate configuration with reasons there of. 

Q4. Do you agree with the provisions regarding seeking of TS recording and ground sample information from IBF/ NBA for verification/ checking by the Auditor? 

Q5. Do you agree that Data Dump may be cross-checked with weekly data of sample weeks basis? If yes, do you agree with checking of random 20 % sample weeks? Please support your comments with justification and statistical information. 

Q6. Do you agree with the proposed Data extraction methodology? If not, suggest alternates with reasoning thereof. 

Q7. Do you agree with verification and reporting of City-wise,State-wise and Head-end wise subscription report? Please provide supporting reasons/ information for your comment. 

Q8. Do you agree with the tests and procedure provided for checking covert and overt fingerprinting? Provide your comments with reasons thereof? 

Q9. Any other suggestion/ comments on the provisions or methodology proposed in the Audit Manual. 

All India Digital Cable Federation (AIDCF) said in its comments: "CAS /SMS are integral part of the addressable system and depending upon the market requirement, there are updates happening to both on a routine basis. These changes have no business/commercial impact on the Broadcasters and are of technical nature to ensure smooth functioning of the systems. Informing the Broadcasters about all and every little change in these would entail extra burden on the DPO's. At the same time any wholesome change like installing new SMS/CAS deployed by the DPO's should necessarily be informed to the Broadcasters, whose channel are being run by the DPO's within 15 days of such change." 

It added on city wise verification: "We strongly disagree with reporting and verification of City-wise, State wise and Head-end wise subscription reports. The reporting formats as provided in Schedule VII of The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Service Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulation 2017 are sufficient for the broadcasters for the purpose of raising subscription invoices. Since the Regulations do not provide for any differential pricing based on city, state, or geography, such reports are not relevant to the broadcasters for any purpose." 

Indian Broadcasting Foundation (IBF) submitted: "it should be mandatory for every DPO to notify the broadcasters for every change made in the addressable system (CAS, SMS and other related systems). The following has already been prescribed in Schedule III of the Regulations. The distributor of television channels shall declare the details of the CAS and the SMS deployed for distribution of channels. In case of deployment of any additional CAS/SMS, the same should be notified to the broadcasters by the distributor." 

On cross checking, IBF said: "The data dump should be cross checked with 100% data derived from the system for all the weeks of the review period." 

On city wise reporting, IBF said that it agrees with verification and reporting of city-wise, state-wise and head-end wise subscription report. This is on account of the following reasons: 

  • It gives clarity and transparency in the system; 
  • It is handy in analyzing the channel-wise penetration; 
  • Marketing becomes more focused; 
  • It ensures win-win situation for both the stake-holders; 
  • It helps in incentive schemes which broadcasters come up with from time to time; 
  • Over and above all of the above, it would enhance the trust factor amongst the players.

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