DTH operators were divided on the issue of inter-operability of Set Top Boxes (STBs) at an open house convened by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) here on Friday.

TRAI had called for the consultation involving all stakeholders on the direction of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. TRAI had earlier floated a consultation paper on the issue eliciting responses from stakeholders.

“TRAI has an open mind on this issue and a consolidated response would soon be submitted to the government,” TRAI chairman J.S. Sarma said.

The TRAI consultation took up the discussions at two levels — the feasibility of inter-operability at the technical and commercial level. However, operators failed to reach a consensus on the issue. Some operators favoured inter-operability by mandating the provision of conditional access modules to access satellite signals across networks while others contended that high-end CAMs required to decode superior technology signals (MPEG 4 or DVB-S) were costlier than investing in subsidised STBs if ever a consumer wanted to change an operator.

Some operators also wanted the regulator to prescribe a minimum technology standards platform to create a more level playing field in the DTH segment.

Consumer organisation Tamil Nadu Progressive Consumer Centre had kick-started the debate with a petition to the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal on the lack of freedom that consumers faced in choosing an alternative operator as the STBs were at present locked to the service provider's network.

In its petition, the organisation had sought TDSAT directions to all DTH players to suspend proprietary STBs and issue only inter-operable equipment to provide consumers the freedom to switch operators without additional investments. The petitioner contended that DTH operators who provided network-locked STBs were contravening clauses 7.1 and 7.2 of the licence norms.

The TDSAT is understood to have completed hearings and has reserved judgment on the case.

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