TRAI has also given attention towards the interoperability of STB’s since it is the most important step in the interest of the consumers, giving them right to change their service provider whenever they want, without buying another STB.
Current provisions in the STB specifications declared by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) also recognize the need for interoperability.
1For the Set Top Boxes for the pay DTH it is mandatory to have a CI slot to enable the STB to be interoperable (BIS IS15954:2012)
2For the Cable Set Top Boxes there is no provision of the CI slot thus it makes the STB proprietary to a greater extent. (BIS 15245:2012)
It is an established fact that pay DTH operators have seeded more than 80 million STB’s and they have only 45 million active STB’s which means there are nearly 40 million inactive STBs which has resulted in huge foreign exchange drain from the country and has also resulted in generation of huge e-waste.
As reports are coming in the media, DD Freesdish is also looking at encrypting its services and it is not yet clear if it will follow the BIS specs for DTH and provide for the boxes with the CI slot. In case it chooses not to provide for the boxes with the CI slot then we are again talking of proprietary boxes which will not be compliant with the BIS specs and thus consumers will again be losing out.
If the BIS specs for the DTH would have been adhered to by the operators on the interoperability then DD Freedish consumers could have easily used the inactive boxes of the ‘Pay’ DTH to avail the services of Free Dish. This would have not only saved consumers from buying the new STB but also would have saved the country precious foreign exchange; DD Freedish could have got immediate access through the millions of the STBs with the consumers.
This would also give a boost to our public broadcasting and help the poor consumers not to depend on paying heavily for the ‘pay’ channels. The DAS regulations have put all poor as well as rich consumers at par.
Unfortunately there was no action taken on this point in spite of many consumer organization and COFI bringing the matter to the attention of the Ministry as well as TRAI, a number of times.
In the cable environment also there is a need of Interoperable STBs as this will help consumers choose their service providers and will end the monopoly of the big MSOs who have vertical integration with the Broadcasters. Even the DAS amendment to Cable Act requires MSOs to declare to the public the vendors for compatible STBs for their services but no one has done so. If this is done, STBs will be available in the open market an d consumers will have the choice to select the right STB model according to their choice and affordability. This will ensure a better service to the consumer at the most reasonable price.
Introduction of introperable STBs will also help promote the Indian CAS designed with the support of DeiTY and will encourage MSOs going in for this CAS to make their services cheaper to the consumers as government has subsidised its royalty for three years.
Providing content through Conditional Access Modules (CAM) should be encouraged as it can be used like a mobile SIM with different STBs and even the sales of the IDTV will pick up. In Europe the IDTV has become a norm and since the flat panels are being manufactured in India, all the Flat Pannel 32 inch and above TV sets could be mandated to be IDTV with a cam slot and tuners of DVBC, DVBS and DVB-T2, so that consumer can choose the services of cable, DTH or DTT of Doordarshan.
This will help consumers, minimize out flow of foreign exchange and ‘Make in India’ policy. Also there will not be problems regarding servicing of STBs.