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Trai develops interoperable set-top boxes, invites stakeholder comments

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-08-2017 Harveen Ahluwalia

New Delhi: In what may be good news for consumers, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has successfully developed an interoperable set-top box (STB) for digital TV broadcasting services, which will allow subscribers to use the same STB interchangeably between various service providers, the regulator said on Friday.

This essentially means that in case a consumer wants to change his service provider (either cable or direct-to-home) , he need not buy a new set-top box. The interoperable set-top boxes have been developed in partnership with the Center for Development of Telematics (C-DOT), Trai’s nodal partner in the project.

“Trai is in the process of laying down a framework of interoperable STBs. With this framework, the subscriber would be able to change its service provider without any need to re-invest in the new STB. C-DOT, the telecom technology development centre of the Government of India, in close coordination with Trai, has developed solution architecture for interoperable STB,” the regulator said in a statement.

Trai has sought comments from broadcast industry stakeholders on the proposed architecture of the new set-top box. The regulator will also be organizing a workshop and a pilot project for implementation and testing of STB interoperability.

“The lack of interoperability of STBs between different service providers has not only compromised the competition in the pay-TV market but is also a major hindrance to technological innovation, improvement in service quality, and sector growth,” the authority said.

This development comes a year after Trai released a pre consultation paper to identify issues related to interoperability of STBs, concerns of the industry and possible solutions. In 2016, Trai had also hired 12 experts (with C-DOT as its nodal partner) to look into the technological challenges involved in allowing subscribers to use the same set-top box for different service providers, Mint had reported earlier.

“We have been lobbying for interoperable set-top boxes for a long time. This will reduce the number of unused set-top boxes, e-waste and hence, the inconvenience caused to the consumers. This was long-due,” said Roop Sharma, president of the Cable Operators Federation of India.

However, the replacement cost for consumers may be higher as and when the new set-top boxes hit the market. “It remains to be seen that how the regulator has solved technical issues like piracy with the new technology,” Sharma added.

Agreed Anil Malhotra, chief operating officer at Siti Networks Ltd. “This is one issue that has plagued the industry for a long time. We will have to ensure that the set-top boxes are secure and that this framework fits all the stakeholders. It’s a little early to speculate on how the system will roll-out but surely, there will be lesser e-junk in the country,” he said.

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