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Allow people to buy own set-top box for DTH service, TRAI tells Airtel, DishTV, TataSky and others

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A number of new rules are going to be enforced from February 1 as far as DTH services are concerned. This also means that your TV experience will change, even if right now it is not clear if the change is going to be for the better or worse. TRAI, which has formulated the new rules, says that the change is for the good. In theory as well the change seems for the good. But in practice it may not. In the list of many changes coming, there is one that will enable consumers to buy their own set-top box (STB) from market instead of using one provided by DTH service company like Airtel, DishTV, TataSky etc.

Here is what TRAI says:

Buy or rent set-top box of your own choice: TRAI says that DTH service providers or local cable operators can no longer compel subscribers to buy or rent STBs from them. User is now free to either rent the set-top Box from DTH service providers or buy one from the open market.

“Every Distributor or its linked local cable operator shall provide to every subscriber the set top box. It shall be permissible for every subscriber to buy a set top box of approved quality from the open market, if available, which is technically compatible with the system of the distributor of television channels. The distributor or its linked local cable operator, as the case may be, shall not compel any subscriber to buy or take on rent the set top box from him alone,” says TRAI.

In other words, this means that just like you can buy your own router and modem while getting a broadband connection — or you can choose one provided by you service provider — you will be able to do the same with the set-top box.

The interoperability of set-top box: While the new DTH rules do not encompass the interoperability of set-top box, this is something TRAI has been mulling over since a long time.

The new rules allow you to buy or rent STBs from the open market but it should be compatible with the distributor of television channels. The interoperability would standardise the technology. This means that there would be just one technology which would make a STB compatible with any DTH service you have. The move seems like something that will help consumers.

The reason why interoperability of set-top box has not been implemented yet is because the STBs used in the market have different compression technique, coding technique, encryption system, middleware and operating system which makes each STB unique. Another hurdle on TRAI’S way to implement interoperability is the resistance from broadcasters who argue that interoperability will lead to piracy of signals of TV channels.

Latest update on interoperability: A TOI report states that government may implement interoperability of STBs by the end of this year. TRAI Chief RS Sharma told the publication, “The project is going on, though it is taking more time than what we had originally thought of. It is continuing I will try to certainly complete this within one year.”

STBs remain compulsory even with the new rules: Set-top box will remain compulsory even after the new DTH rules come into effect. You can view TV channels only if you have STB at home. And if you want to move away from TV channels, then you will have to subscribe to a streaming service.

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