Friday, 22 April 2011

TRAI Order deadline missed by DTH Providers

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In July 2010, the regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) order specified

“Every service provider providing broadcasting services or cable services to its subscribers using an addressable system shall, from the date of coming into force of this Order, offer or cause to offer all pay channels offered by it to its subscribers on a-la-carte basis and shall specify the maximum retail price for each pay channel, as payable by the ordinary subscriber. Provided that in the case of direct to home service, a direct to home operator who is unable to offer all its pay channels to its subscribers on a-la-carte basis on the date of coming into force of this order due to any technical reason, shall offer all its pay channels on a-la-carte basis to its subscribers with effect from a date not later than the 1st day of January, 2011.”

This order was in effect from 1st September 2010 and DTH companies were offered an extension up to 1st January 2011, if they needed it. Unfortunately, most of the DTH companies did not meet this deadline. You can read the details of this TRAI order at http://www.dth.co/342/trai-orders-dth/.

DTH subscribers across India are reported to be over 29 million households. Thus, DTH services assume the status of one of the preferred distribution platform for TV channels along with the cable TV distribution services. However, cable companies that use a digital delivery platform have already started offering customers the choice of picking the channels they want to watch. While, most of the DTH companies cite technical and operational reasons for their inability to meet the TRAI order deadline.

Thankfully, Sun Direct DTH is offering channels on à la carte basis as confirmed by Tony D’Silva, chief executive of Sun Direct DTH service provider. While other DTH service providers are dragging their feet, Digital cable operators have already started offering prices of individual channels to customers. Roop Sharma, president of the Cable Operators Federation of India, an industry body, said DTH companies were using “delay tactics”. “They have the technology but don’t want to sell individual channels since packages get them more revenue,” she alleged. An official from TRAI, which set the deadline, said “It’s too early to comment on the implications,” but this would be “considered non-compliance of Trai’s order”.

This TRAI order gave customers an option to pick and pay only for the desired channels. Looking at the customer pattern, this flexibility to customers would bring down their DTH service bill and hence the DTH service providers would loose revenue. Big reason for DTH service providers to delay government guidelines as much as possible. The question is, how long will the customers seeking greater choice over what they watch and how much they pay for it may have to wait?


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