Interopertability to Set Top Boxes (STB)

New Delhi, Sep 19 (Calcutta Tube) After mobile number portability, the telecom and broadcast regulator’s move to bring interopertability to Set Top Boxes (STB) has evoked a mixed response from the Direct-to-Home (DTH) operators.

STB interopertability means the STBs of any DTH platform should be usable on any other DTH platform. It will enable customers to switch from one operator to another on the same set top box by just using a module known as conditional access module (CAM).

The customer can simply insert this module into the STB to access another operator without using a separate STB.

Interoperability of STB was incorporated in the DTH licensing norms to give the consumers a choice. The clause says that the STB must be ‘inter-operable’, meaning the STBs should be compatible with all service providers.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is looking to implement an open architecture system for the different DTH players and last month issued a consultation paper seeking feedback from the stakeholders.

In response, the country’s largest DTH player Dish TV favoured the proposed move, saying that portability is mandated by the law and should be implemented.

But other DTH operators say there are serious limitations to the technical inter-operability of the STB such as cost escalation.

‘To reduce the cost of the box, each box is designed to support a limited configuration based on network requirements of the provider. Any attempt for interoperability will increase cost for the subscribers without getting advantages of newer technology,’ said Reliance Big TV.

Tata Sky said different operators are using different combinations. If a single STB is to be made compatible with all different technologies such as compression technology, transmission technology and other encryption technologies, the cost is bound to go up significantly.

‘The increased cost of an STB would defeat the very purpose of technical inter-operability, as the additional cost would have to be recovered from customers,’ it said.

Currently, different service providers are using different technologies for distributing signals through the STB.

Bharti Telemedia echoed the views of Reliance Big TV and Tata Sky and said that commercial interoperability will be way better than technical interoperability.

‘The operators who have installed base of STBs of an older version should endeavour to replace those STBs with the latest version so that the customer can enjoy interoperability. In light of the above, we believe that the commercial interoperability is more consumers friendly and should be extended to the consumers to get the refund of STB security as per prescribed scale,’ said the operator.

DD Direct, TATA SKY, Dish TV fall in the first category and use DVB-S (Digital Video Broadcasting) modulation and MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group)compression, a standard for the generic coding of moving pictures and associated audio information.

SUN Direct and Reliance Big TV fall in the second category and use DVB-S modulation and MPEG-4 compression, the better version of MPEG.

Videocon D2H, Airtel digital TV which falls in the third category work on DVB-S2 (second generation Digital Video Broadcasting) modulation and MPEG-4 compression.

While customers with third category operator can move to any operator, the customers in second category can move to an operator in the first and second category only. However, customers with first category operator can move to the other operators in the same category only.

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