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TRAI issues paper on interoperability of set top boxes

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a consultation paper on interoperable Set Top Box (STB) for digital TV broadcasting services. 

At present, the STBs deployed in the network are non-interoperable, that is, the same STB cannot be used interchangeably across the different service providers. As far as STBs deployed by Direct to Home (DTH) players are concerned, STBs comply with the license conditions to support Common Interface (CI) module based interoperability. TRAI has observed that, “The lack of interoperability of STBs between different service providers has not only compromised the competition in the Pay-TV market, but also a major hindrance to technological innovation, improvement in service quality, and sector growth.” 

TRAI had issued a pre-consultation paper on STB interoperability during April 2016. Thereafter, a consultation note on solution architecture developed by C-DoT for technical interoperable set top box was issued during August 2017. The smart card-based solution has been successfully tested in lab conditions using separate instances of CAS developed by C-DoT. However, the field testing with third party CAS solution is still to be conducted with different industry stakeholders. 

TRAI has been taking various measures to achieve STB interoperability, including the stakeholders’ meetings/ discussions. The Authority also engaged with various technology companies in the broadcasting technology space for information exchange. A consultation paper is now issued with a view to elicit response from all the stakeholders for suggesting the best solution to implement the interoperability of STBs. 

The consultation paper provides brief overview of various available options and technical solutions for achieving interoperability of STB. The paper seeks response with detailed justifications for suggesting most optimal and cost-effective solution. 

The issues for consultation are:

  1. In view of the implications of non-interoperability, is it desirable to have interoperability of STBs? 
  1. Looking at the similar structure of STB in cable and DTH segment, with difference only in the channel modulation and frequency range, would it be desirable to have universal interoperability, that is, same STB to be usable on both DTH or Cable platform? Or should there be a policy/ regulation to implement interoperability only within a platform, that is, within the DTH network and within the Cable TV segment? 
  1. Should interoperable STBs be made available through open market only to exploit benefits of commoditisation of the device? 
  1. Do you think that introducing STB interoperability is necessary with a view to reducing environmental impact caused by e-waste generated by non-interoperability of STBs? 

Stakeholders can send their written comments on the proposed solution architecture for technical interoperable STB by Monday, December 9, 2019. Counter-comments can be submitted up to Monday, December 23, 2019.

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