• India’s TRAI calls for consumer-friendly interoperability on STBs  
  • Lack of interoperability hinders technological innovation says TRAI 
  • Regulator outlines content security and anti-piracy are main priorities  

indian tv

TRAI: New recommendations to support interoperability for digital TV consumers

Indian telecom regulator has released a series of consumer-friendly recommendations for digital TV broadcasting, calling for all set-top boxes to support interoperability across the country. 

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has advised all direct-to-home (DTH) and cable set-top boxes (STB) given to digital TV consumers should support interoperability in a set of new recommendations it released over the weekend.  

The STBs deployed in the cable television networks in the region are currently non-interoperable and cannot be used interchangeably across various service providers. However, DTH devices in the market must comply with the licence conditions to support common interface (CI) module-based interoperability, but in practice are not interoperable.  

In its latest announcement, TRAI recommended: “In principle, all set-top-boxes in India must support technological interoperability, i.e. every STB supplied to a consumer must be interoperable.” 

The regulator also suggested the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB) could form a coordination committee with members from Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) as well as TRAI and TV manufacturers.  

The coordination committee could help to steer the adaptation of the revised STB and digital television standards in a time bound manner. 

It said: “The committee may steer implementation of revised STB standards for both the DTH and the cable TV segment.” 

TRAI claims that the lack of interoperability of STBs between different service providers deprives customers of the freedom to change service provider but also creates a hindrance to technological innovation, improvement in service quality, and the overall sector growth. 

TRAI said that by implementing interoperability across devices it would aim to ensure content security, strong anti-piracy and flexibility while keeping device costs reasonable.  

According to its new plans, TRAI said that it has been engaging with the STB industry’s stakeholders on the issue of interoperability and pointed to the challenges in aligning disparate interest groups including platform owners, conditional access vendors and STB manufacturers among others. 

Following on from its plans it has published a list of recommendations that include founding requirements that every STB provided to a consumer must in principle be interoperable, with mandatory provisioning of USB port-based CI for all digital television sets in India. 

TRAI acknowledged the technical and commercial constraints of a universal STB and said the STB interoperability will be applicable within the DTH segment and within the cable segment respectively.