Direct-to-home (DTH) subscribers will soon have an a la carte menu of channels to choose from, but will have to pay a minimum fee of Rs. 150 a month.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued its tariff order for 2010, for digital addressable systems – such as DTH and IPTV – and has insisted that customers must be given free choice of pay channels, than be forced to pick from a bunch of pre-set bouquet arrangements.

The change must be made by September this year and the final deadline will be January 2011 if operators needed extra time for technical upgrade.

Service providers have been told to publish channel rates every three months, with a 30-day notice period for any changes. If they want to fix a monthly minimum subscription, the bill cannot exceed Rs. 150.

TRAI has also told broadcasters that they can charge DTH operators only 35 per cent of the fee they charge regular cable TV operators for their channels. This is because DTH allows an accurate record of subscribers opting for different channels, unlike the regular cable TV, where broadcasters must rely on the data reported by operators.

The tariff order comes a day after TRAI told the Supreme Court that it plans to cap regular cable TV charges at Rs. 250 per month. The regulatory agency has also submitted its recommendations on the government's uplinking-downlinking policy, now under review.

TRAI feels there should be no cap on the number of satellite-based TV channels allowed to uplink or downlink content in India.

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