Cable TV, Head In The Sky (HITS) and DTH operators holding a Multiple Service Operator (MSO) license should be allowed to share network infrastructure and TV signals among each other on a voluntary basis, Indian telecom regulator TRAI said in a new set of recommendations (pdf). These recommendations are aimed at creating a “policy environment” for facilitating a new infrastructure sharing system among the TV operators and distributors in the country. If implemented, these recommendations will lead to lowering cost of rollouts for these players, and might help either reduce cost of services, or make them more viable.

Note that the telecom sector already has its own set of guidelines for spectrum sharing that allow telcos to share each other’s spectrum in areas where they lack coverage. Telcos are also allowed to share tower infrastructure with each other. TRAI also issued a set of recommendations recently mandating telcos and ISPs to share network infrastructure within buildings, residential apartment, public spaces, etc.

However, in the TV broadcasting sector, operators use several mediums like HITS, Cable, DTH, etc. for transmitting TV signals. Each medium has its own set of standards defining minimum requirements and compliances, and TV operators are regulated under an MSO license. Note that a TV operator is considered to be an MSO if it operators more than one service viz. Cable, HITS, DTH.  Hathway is an example of an MSO which operates broadband, cable and IPTV services under an MSO license.

Lowdown on the recommendations

TRAI has released specific recommendations for each medium:

Cable TV operators can their share head-end system (antennas, processors, modulators, etc.) used for transmitting signals voluntarily among other MSOs. The regulator also recommended removing/tweaking the licensing condition which mandates a Cable TV operator to have its own head-end system.

HITS operators and MSOs “should be allowed to share their HITS platform on voluntary basis, in flexible ways, for distribution of TV channels…Sharing of transport streams (TV signals) transmitted by HITS platform, between HITS operates and MSOs, should be permitted,” TRAI said.

DTH operators who depend on satellite resources should be allowed to share their DTH platform and transport stream of TV channels, on a voluntary basis with other DTH operators, subject to approval from the TRAI and the Ministry of Broadcasting. Note that given the sharp competition between private players, this is unlikely to happen. If anything, we might see DD Direct share resources with the private players.

Distributors of TV channels should be permitted to share their common hardware systems including Subscriber Management Systems and Conditional Access Systems with other TV operators.

-Apart from this, TRAI also urged the central government to “encourage sharing of infrastructure, wherever, technically feasible” among its state-owned TV broadcasting services, on a voluntary basis. All TV operators/distributors must individually comply with all acts, rules, regulations, license conditions, directions and other guidelines specified in case they initiate network/infrastructure sharing, TRAI added.

Why TRAI wants to allow infrastructure sharing among TV distributors

According to TRAI, infrastructure sharing among TV sistributors will help:
– Enhance distribution capacity by utilising unused frequencies and bandwidth.
– Reduce capital and operating expenditure for service providers.
– Bring in new pricing structures and lower tariff for TV subscribers
– Lower the barrier for entry of new players and ease setting up of new business, eventually bringing in more competition.
– Bring in more TV channels for the end user by expanding the existing TV distribution network.
– Allow existing operators to invest in new technologies.

Also Read:
TRAI recommends changes in interconnection policies between IPTV, HITS and cable operators
TRAI proposes bringing DTH, Cable TV, HITS, IPTV operators under unified QoS framework