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DTH operators defying interoperability clause

DTH providers Dish TV and Tata Sky have been playing around with TRAI’s guidelines, reports Saurabh Turakhia.
By Saurabh Turakhia | Hindustan Times, Mumbai
UPDATED ON FEB 15, 2008 03:25 AM IST

DTH providers Dish TV and Tata Sky have been playing around with the TRAI’s (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) interoperability guidelines, which require that the DTH operator must provide a set top box technically interoperable among different service providers.

The set-top box should also conform to standards laid down by the Government. At present, these standards prescribed by the Government incorporate, among others, MPEG 2 compression format.

Now there is resistance to a revision of standards suggested by Trai as well.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, RN Choubey, advisor (B&CS), Trai said, “We have recently recommended to the Government that the standards should be revised to permit mpeg4 set top boxes. These would be compatible for mpeg2 transmissions anyways.”

As of now technical interoperability hasn’t taken roots as hardly any consumer has reportedly decided to switch service providers. A reason, according to Trai, is that the prices of CAM (conditional access modules), which are needed to be plugged in the existing set top boxes slot are too expensive (almost as much as the set top box). The CAM is not provided by the operator.

Trai suggestis the revision of standards be implemented prospectively and apply to DTH subscribers enrolled after six months from the date of such revision. Such revision should not compulsorily require the DTH operators to upgrade the STBs of existing subscribers to conform to revised standards, though they would be free to do so on their own.

The suggestion comes in the wake of Reliance’s DTH offering- Big TV to be available on a technologically higher platform-mpeg4.

Vikram Mehra, chief marketing officer of Tata Sky said, “Technically, all Tata Sky set top boxes are interoperable and do follow the existing TRAI guidelines.”

Vikram Kaushik, the CEO of Tata Sky, however finds the technical interoperability clause ‘ill-advised’ said that it should be removed altogether.

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