This is the best time for last mile cable operators to make co-operatives and install their own digital headends, sharing the cost of infrastructure including CAS and billing software.
In this interview Taral Parikh, Solutions Expert from NAGRA confirms this as a good solution to reduce cost and comply with government dead lines the fastest.
CQ: Digitisation of Cable TV in India has brought many new companies in the field from all over the world. An ordinary cable operator/MSO gets confused over features and costs. What should be the main criteria of selecting a CAS for a digital cable system?
TARAL PARIKH: The main criteria for selecting a CAS solution are:
1) The financial background of the company and also company’s experience in securing the Pay TV content.
2) The experience of the company has in India and globally with the depth of the product portfolio in one-way CAS, two-way CAS for Cable, IPTV, DRM, OTT, etc.
3) The local support and training infrastructure the company has in India.
4) The operator should also ask whether the Set top boxes use “secured” chips or are they using only “simple generic” chips.
5) The CAS system must comply with TRAI regulations.
6) The CAS should be Scalable in line with the subscriber growth.
7) Ability to work with a scalable SMS system
8) Ability to work with independent middleware offering revenue generating features such as advanced advertising, advanced PVR functions, Regional fonts etc. across different makes of chipsets.
CQ: Suitability of a Cardless CAS in cable system?
TARAL PARIKH: A cardless CAS in a cable system with a “secured chipset” offers a very cost effective solution to the cable operator/MSO. It offers similar functionalities of the smart card based solution and hassle free logistics as no Smart cards are required.
CQ: What features can be removed to start with to keep the investments low and can they be added in future?
TARAL PARIKH: 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.
This approach will also help operator to generate the additional revenue using middleware features. 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.
CQ: Do we have scalable CAS in terms of number of subscribers as well as technology?
TARAL PARIKH: As mentioned in the first answer, scalability is one of the main aspect. 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, professional grade servers and the Database that the CAS system uses. The cable operator has to ensure that the CAS system implements a robust, scalable and redundant solution.
CQ: How to select an SMS & Billing systems so that it can be integrated with the CAS without any problem?
TARAL PARIKH: To save the integration time and faster time to market operator should check for the SMS and Billing systems seamlessly integrated with the CAS system and the SMS and Billing system vendors need to demonstrate this. It must comply to all the TRAI recommendations. The SMS and Billing vendor should be able to integrate the customer’s complex business requirements into an easy to use interface for the operators to perform day to day operations. The SMS and Billing system should be flexible to make changes as and when required and the vendor should have enough local expertise and resources to support the cable operator.
CQ: What are the must see features of a reasonably good SMS & Billing systems?
TARAL PARIKH: The SMS and Billing system must be able to integrate with Short Messaging Gateways, external payment gateways, web portals and smart phone apps. The operators should ask for the automated system which will give them the error free database.
CQ: What problems can one face after selecting an off the shelf economical SMS & Billing software?
TARAL PARIKH: The standard problem we have seen is that the integration with the CAS for other customers, as they have to make changes in their existing software for adapting the customer business requirements which takes lots of time.
CQ: Can the operator go in for different vendors for CAS and Billing Software?
TARAL PARIKH: I would say technically operator can go for the different vendor for CAS and Billing Software instead of pre-integrated solutions but operationally, it becomes difficult during troubleshooting. In addition, there is no guarantee that a particular business requirement will work seamlessly across different vendor solutions.
CQ: What features are essential in the most economical middleware?
TARAL PARIKH: The essential features are:
1)The different types of chipsets that the Middleware should support.
2)Decide on 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 as they are aware of the end to end solution.
3)User friendly look and feel so that consumers of any age can operate easily
4)Facility to set reminders, set the favourite channels, Search Feature, Parental Control for channel lock.
5)External USB the Personal Video Recording with series linking, conflict management, trick modes, instant recording, time shift recording, hard disk space management etc.
6)Allow operators to push advertisement without doing a software upgrade (OTA) for revenue generation.
7)Support of Popups, Mails, Fingerprinting, Account Management, Genres, EPG etc.
8)Support of local languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu etc.
9)Support of Software Development Kit (SDK) for developing interactive application and Games.
CQ: What should an operator expect while integrating a middleware with rest of the system?
TARAL PARIKH: First, the operator must identify a single point of contact for the “Systems Integrator”. The System Integrator 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.
CQ: Can a co-operative of cable operators in small towns share a CAS and SMS to reduce cost and yet to comply with the regulations?
TARAL PARIKH: Yes, this is very much feasible solution as the co-operative of the cable operators share a single CAS and SMS infrastructure to provide the services in different small towns. The CAS can generate the reports for each operator, subscriber wise to comply with the regulations.