Dec 16, 2008

India -TRAI seeks interlink norms for digital cable platforms

In order to keep pace with the rapid growth of the cable and broadcast industry, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today floated a consultation paper on interconnection issues relating to broadcasting and cable services.

The previous interconnection norms for the cable sector were issued nearly four years ago, when there were about 45 million analogue cable homes. During the period, the number of cable homes has doubled, of which nearly 10 per cent are digital cable homes that access channels via set-top boxes.

The Trai paper covers interconnection issues for addressable cable platforms (via a set-top box) and non-addressable platforms (analogue cable), general interconnection issues as well as those related to registration of interconnection agreements. This is being done in the backdrop of a marked increase in deploying addressable platforms for distribution of TV channels like IPTV, voluntary CAS and the upcoming head-end in the sky (HITS) and mobile TV services.

In the paper, Trai has raised several issues like the need to regulate carriage fees and its various aspects; whether one interconnection norm should govern all cable and direct-to-home platforms; and whether the regulation should mandate publishing of interconnect agreements for addressable systems instead of interconnect offers, among others.

This issue has been raised at the behest of several stakeholders to avoid disputes and litigation that arises as a result of the absence of written interconnection agreements between the broadcasters and the cable operators, Trai said.

According to the regulator, the addressable platforms for distribution of TV channels reportedly face problems in availing of the content from the broadcasters. Therefore, the issue of publishing Reference Interconnect Offers (RIOs) by the broadcasters for all addressable systems will be discussed.

Trai has also sought comments on the need for regulating the carriage fee charged by distributors of TV channels.


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