September 2017


The TRAI Hopes To Provide Interoperable STBs In 2018

A Pay TV consumer unhappy with his existing DTH or Cable TV service provider, will be able to switch to any other service provider, without changing his STB. The TRAI hopes to introduce a single STB that will operate on any DTH or Cable TV platform in India.

This intent was declared by the TRAI in its April 2016 pre-consultation paper on STB interoperability, to define common STB standards. "We will set up standards so that the STBs are not tied to a provider. It should be the same philosophy as in the telecom sector. The STB should be de-coupled from the service provider," according to the TRAI Chairman, R S Sharma.


CDoT (Centre for Development of Telematics), under the Department of Telecommunications (DoT), has now developed a working prototype.

"We had a meeting with CDoT in the last week of July in Bengaluru. They have completed work largely to our satisfaction," R S Sharma, told the press.

The technology is very robust and works efficiently, he added. The new technology will encapsulate all operator specific requirements in a smart card and generic details in the STB. A consumer can switch service providers by simply changing the SMART card.

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"We will take all stakeholders into consideration. Piracy is an important concern here, especially for broadcasters. We will talk to them and develop a clear understanding so that there are no holes in the system which can be compromised with," the TRAI Chairman said, adding cost is another big consideration.


This refers to STBs that can be freely interchanged between not only DTH platforms, but also between all and Cable TV and DTH platform. The DTH license requires every DTH platform to provide interoperable STBs. DTH owners typically subsidise their STBs to attract and tie-in customers. They therefore insisted that interoperable STBs were not technically possible.

Since their license required it, they offered commercial interoperability on their STBs.

The Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT), the telecom technology development centre of the government of India, in coordination with TRAI, has developed an architecture for interoperable STBs. The framework ensures that all existing STBs will continue to work without any interruption.

The architecture provides & requires the following:

♣ Every Entity In The Total Signal/ Content Chain Must Adhere To The Recommendations.

♣ It must Be Implemented As A Compulsory Measure By All Interoperable STB Manufacturers

♣ Each STB Manufacturer Will Be Allotted An Id Code.

♣ Each Operator Will Have Their Own SMART cards

♣ Mobile OTP For Enhanced Security

♣ Operator Specific EPG & Authorisation Via The New Network

♣ STB enables Operator Specific Middleware

♣ Allows The Use Of Multi CAS Systems


The term refers to a commitment by the service provider to refund the STB deposit (less depreciation) to any customer who wishes to shift to another platform.

Of course this is not adhered to by DTH platforms, since more than 50% (60 million) DTH STBs are lying with consumers, unused, without refund of the consumer's deposit amount.


The challenges in technical interoperability include a common middleware & EPG. iCAS will be used as a compulsory and common Conditional Access System on all future STBs in the Indian market.

Industry observers remain sceptical on how these issues will be resolved, since the middleware and EPG create each platform's unique consumer experience.


After building the prototype, we now have to explore how to replicate it and transfer technology for production, Sharma explained. "Broadly, the cost should be less than existing or even if it's the same price, it will have portability advantage. People like a product which has the same price but with an added advantage," he said.

The STBs will be made by local manufacturers, using the Indian government sponsored iCAS, as a part of the 'Make In India' program.

"We expect to conclude this issue in the next 5-6 months and hopefully, people will be able to use this service by next year" Sharma told reporters. "The finalisation of the issue, however, is dependent on many factors," he added, side-stepping a specific time line.