Rahul Khullar, Chairman, TRAI made the official statement,
“Direct to Home (DTH) operators should provide their consumers either commercial or technical inter-operability of set top boxes.”
Essentially, he suggested that Set Top Boxes (STB) should be technically inter-operable, which means that a consumer, if he wishes to change his service provider, can use the same equipment. In other words, an STB from one service provider should be usable with the service provided by another DTH operator.
Why is inter-operability so important?
There are about a dozen large DTH operators like Tata Sky, Reliance Digital, Airtel Digital TV, Videocon D2H, Big TV, etc. Each has its own STB with unique hardware and remotes too. Further customization comes in the form of features. For a long time there were Standard Definition (SD) Channel Streams, but with the advent of high definition (HD) channels, these service providers have launched new iterations that support HD Streaming. Additionally there are other features like digital video recording (DVR) which require special components.
With addition of such features, and brand related customizations, each service provider offers a STB that only works on its own accord. But customer pays a lot of upfront charges for these STBs and more often than not, there are no return policies which offer buy-back or trade.
Interestingly, TRAI has also suggested if ‘technical inter-operability’ is not an option, then the DTH Operators must offer ‘commercial inter-operability’. It simply means, consumers can return their STBs to the service providers and with the money buy STBs from alternative operator of their choice. With DTH Service getting ever more popular, it appears TRAI has taken a right stand to allow patrons to ensure their interests are safeguarded. What do you think?