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TRAI recommends that TV set-top boxes be interoperable

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

TRAI today announced recommendations for television set-top boxes in India to be interoperable. In effect, this would allow customers with a DTH or cable TV subscription to move to a different provider without having to pay for a new set top box. Interoperable set top boxes would make the TV market significantly more competitive, as they remove the friction users might have in migrating.

TRAI has been mulling this issue for a whopping decade — here’s our coverage of the idea when it first came up eleven years ago. Three years before that in 2006, TRAI admitted that interoperability for set-top boxes with DVRs is not possible, and suggested that set-top boxes be rented out to users instead of being sold to them.

Today, TRAI has recommended that the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting take action to amend license conditions or cable and DTH providers’ registrations so that they are obligated to provide interoperability. Operators would essentially be required, if the recommendations are accepted, to ensure that a free USB port is sanctioned in their STBs, and that technical standards for interoperability are built into the devices they give customers. Or as TRAI puts it, a DVB CI Plus 2.0 port based on ETSI TS 103 605 standards.

While TRAI didn’t set any specific timelines, they said a “Coordination Committee” would be set up to ensure implementation, with which would have members from the I&B Ministry, MEITY, TRAI and representatives of TV manufacturers. This could be an especially long process, if the amount of delays there were with simply digitising set top boxes in India.

Read: Press Release | Recommendations

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I cover the digital content ecosystem and telecom for MediaNama.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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