In a consultation paper (pdf), TRAI has recommended that standard interconnection agreements (SIA) and model interconnection agreements (MIA) be applied for revenue sharing between IPTV and Head-end In The Sky (HITS) players, Multiple System Operators (MSOs) with Local Cable Operators (LCOs). TRAI also recommended that since HITS & IPTV services are at a nascent stage, the revenue share between them and LCOs could be left to market forces as well.
Currently, regulations specify that revenue arrangements between HITS, IPTV, MSOs and LCOs can be finalized through mutual negotiations. However, if the two parties fail to reach an agreement, TRAI says provisions in the Interconnection Regulations, 2012 may be used for an alternative structure; these include MIA and SIA agreements.
TRAI introduced the MIA and SIA agreement regulations for largely governing interconnection between an MSO and LCO.
HITS operators use specialized antenna and equipment different from a DTH provider to pull more/better TV signals from communication satellites and deliver it through cable. IPTV operators deliver TV signals over the Internet using cable systems. While MSOs are companies that owns and operates more than one cable TV systems. Local Cable Operators (LCOs) usually get into mutual agreements with MSOs or HITS/IPTV to distribute TV channels in a localized or remote area.
It also made recommendations on time period for providing signals and other agreement terms:
Time-period for providing signals: As per existing regulations, when an LCO makes a request for acquiring TV signals from an HITS or IPTV operator, the request shall be considered within 30 days from the date of a request. If an HITS or IPTV operator turns down the request, the reason should be conveyed to an LCO within 30 days.
-The TRAI has already made it mandatory for and LCO operator to start distributing TV signals that it receives from MSOs (after a successful agreement) within 30 days from the date of signing of agreement. However, in case of HITS/IPTV, an LCO might need to acquire additional hardware/antennas to start distributing signal. Therefore, the TRAI recommends to extend the 30 days deadline specified to an LCO.
Why TRAI is calling for a tweak in interconnection policies
According to the TRAI: “LCOs play a key role in the value chain for meeting the quality of service norms for the subscribers”. This is because LCOs help bring broadcasting TV signals to the most remote and localized areas where bigger MSOs and IPTV/HITS operators don’t reach.
However, TRAI adds that the number of HITS/IPTV operators in the country are fewer when compared to MSOs and DTH operators. Bringing changes in the current interconnect agreements is impending in order to help increase the number of LSOs approaching IPTV/HITS operators for content sharing.