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November 2017


By JAYESH DUBEY, Vice President, ByDesign India Pvt Ltd

Encouraged by the success of number portability feature in Telecommunications in India, Set Top Box Interoperability has become a desired feature in the Broadcasting Industry. All the ecosystem partners be it the Government, regulators, broadcasters, operators, STB manufacturers or even the Conditional Access System companies feels a need to develop and get it implemented. In a market of 220 Million (22 Crores) TV homes, a small churn of 5% (11 Million or 1.1 Crore) is also a pretty big number, probably equal or bigger than the entire population of some small countries like Sweden, New Zealand, Hongkong, Singapore etc.

STB Interoperability while on one hand promises to reduce the e-waste, it also gives the choice to the end user to chose its service provider based on the quality of service and different engagement options provided by the service providers. It all boils down to the customer satisfaction and empowerment. It also takes off from the books of the service providers a large chunk of the liability and the fear of carrying old inventory tied to some old legacy technology. Today some operators are not able to offer better/ newer technology as they still have 40% of their Set Top Boxes tied up with an old dying technology like Standard Definition MPEG2 where the rest of the world has moved on to solutions like 4K/8K HEVC. They don’t know how to get rid of this pile of inventory for which they would have invested Millions of Dollars at some point of time. Indian consumers, by nature, have a high resistance to change and if the basic feature of Audio Video decoding is performed successfully they seldom look to either upgrade their TV sets or change their Set-top Boxes for a better viewing experience. This is linked to affordability aspects also but a major chunk of decisions are postponed with this “chalta hai” attitude. Hence, it is all the more reason that Indian operators are thinking of STB Interoperability options.

It has been a clear approach by the Government of India and the regulatory body like TRAI to take into consideration “Consumer First” approach right from the beginning. Having iCASTM platform which has a majority funding by the Government of India, in its armor, along with C-DoT and guidance from IIT-Mumbai as well as other competing agencies, TRAI has developed a new approach to look at the issue afresh and propose a framework for Interoperability taking into consideration views of all the stakeholders.

This approach has received an encouraging response from the Industry, as was visible during a top management level workshop organized by TRAI recently on 26th Sept 2017 in New Delhi, which saw the participation of all the leading Indian DTH and cable operators, Multiple CAS providers operating in India, STB manufacturers, Industry association members, content providers as well as other technology owners. Views of all stakeholders are published on the TRAI website in a transparent manner, providing a ground for healthy debate in the matter so that most optimum solution can be worked out which is widely accepted across the industry and results into meeting the ultimate aim to provide final choice to the end consumer.

In reality, it definitely is not an easy task as it involves deep study and understanding of the core subject and working closely with various technology owners who have spent millions of dollars and thousands of man-months developing their technology which is operational across the world. The solution has to take into consideration all the content security aspects, existing standards, and operational/ implementation aspects so that it can be accepted and deployed across the board. This exercise will probably be the first serious attempt to work out such a solution anywhere in the world for significantly large networks. It will also open the doors for the technology companies to offer such solutions elsewhere in the world and get rid of the shackles of proprietary technology which is completely opposite to the open standards and platforms, which is the way, the entire world is moving towards too. It is not a secret anymore that open platforms provider better opportunities of growth, innovation, and improvisation, much needed in the current generation where the technologies are becoming redundant by the day.

It is a golden chance for all the ecosystem partners to try and establish a system which takes care of their perennial problems of dead stock on books, technology stagnation, customer complains, zero innovation opportunity and last but not the least relatively fewer growth opportunities and options.

Jayesh Dubey, Vice President,
ByDesign India Pvt Ltd, Bangalore
Mobile: +91 98 4411 6852

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not in any way, necessarily reflect any views, official policy or position of any public or private company or Government of India or any of its agencies.