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TRAI issues pre-consultation paper for infrastructure sharing in broadcasting

With this, the authority intends to optimally use its resources so as to reach the last-mile consumer

TRAI issues pre-consultation paper for infrastructure sharing in broadcasting

With this, the authority intends to optimally use its resources so as to reach the last-mile consumer

BestMediaInfo Bureau | Mumbai | May 25, 2016


Satellite television services are available through multiple distribution platforms such as Cable TV, direct-to-home (DTH) and head-end in the sky (HITS) networks. As of March 31, 2016, a total of 869 satellite TV channels have permission for downlinking in India.

Each Distribution Platform Operator (DPO) retransmits an average of 350 satellite TV channels along with other services. Most retransmitted channels are common across operators. Currently, each operator maintains its own infrastructure for distribution of satellite broadcasting TV services to subscribers.

For optimum utilisation of the infrastructure, one needs to examine the technical and commercial issues. In order to enable infrastructure sharing, modifications are required in the existing policy guidelines.

In order to solicit stakeholders’ views the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a pre-consultation paper related to sharing of infrastructure on voluntary basis.

In India, there are a number of TV distribution platforms. There are over 700 multi system operators (MSOs) providing cable TV services through digital addressable systems (DAS) and 60,000 cable operators. Each MSO is required to install its own independent head-end. There are six pay DTH operators and one free DTH operator, two HITS operators and internet protocol television (IPTV). Some of the telecom service providers (TSPs) are using IPTV technology for distribution of TV signals.

The basic premise of transponder space sharing is that popular satellite TV channels could be retransmitted using common transponder space on a satellite by multiple operators voluntarily. Since different DTH/HITS operators use different CAS systems, Simulcrypt technology may be used for encryption of these common channels.

As per the existing guidelines for grant of permission and operation of HITS services, in the active mode of operation, the HITS operator works like a conventional MSO, except that virtually the head-end is in the sky instead of being located on ground.

Based on these guidelines, some of the stakeholders are of the view that HITS operator can share the same feed which has been aggregated by one for its active operations. They say it will ensure the optimum utilisation of the available earth station and satellite infrastructure. Indirectly it may also solve the issues relating to limited or practically ‘nil’ competition in the last mile access of the cable TV networks.

Some questions were raised while issuing this consultation:

  1. In addition to infrastructure sharing discussed in the pre-consultation paper, what more can be shared by the DPOs (MSOs, HITS, DTH) for better utilisation of infrastructure?
  2. What could be the operational, commercial, technical and regulatory issues that need to be addressed while developing policy and regulatory framework for infrastructure sharing in the broadcasting TV distribution space?
  3. Do you envisage any requirement for change in the existing licensing/ registration framework laid for DTH, DAS and HITS broadcasting services? If yes, please specify those changes clearly for each platform?
  4. What could be the implications of allowing separation of network and service provider functions at the distribution level? How can the responsibilities be divided between the network and service providers?
  5. Any other issue which you feel will be relevant for enabling the infrastructure sharing and separation of network and service provider functions in TV distribution sector.

Infrastructure sharing is likely to reduce capital expenditure and operating expense for the operators. The reduction in entry expenditure will bring down the entry barriers for new operators. Thus, enabling of infrastructure sharing using HITS platform may help in making the DAS operations economically viable in rural/remote areas and faster digitalisation of TV services.

In addition, the infrastructure sharing will pave the way for competition in the sector. With infrastructure sharing, the monitoring of the TV services provided by various DPOs will be easier that will also reduce the government expenditures on monitoring requirements.

Apart from benefits, there are challenges in achieving the infrastructure sharing in operational, commercial and regulatory categories which need to be taken care of.

Tags: TRAI
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