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TRAI lays out migration plan for new tariff regime, gives a month for smooth switch-over

All existing packs/plans/bouquets will continue uninterrupted till January 31, 2019. No service provider will disconnect any signal or feed to any MSO/LCO/subscriber till January-end

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has given a month for the smooth implementation of a new regulatory framework that comes into effect from December 29, 2018. It also laid out a migration plan after a meeting held on December 27 with all broadcasters and leading DPOs (DTHIMSO/HITS/IPTV).

According to TRAI, all service providers are required to adhere to the following schedule to ensure the smooth transition of subscribers from the old to the new regulatory framework:

• All existing packs/plans/bouquets to subscribers will continue uninterrupted till January 31, 2019.

• No service provider to disconnect any signal/feed to any MSO/LCO/subscriber till January 31, 2019, on the pretext of implementing the new regulatory framework.

• Inter-service provider commercial settlement to continue as per their inter-se agreements in force prior to December 29, 2018 till January 31, 2019.

• DPOs to devise their own mechanism to reach out to all the subscribers and seek options from them. Data pertaining to consumers' choice, etc., should be maintained in such a manner that it is easily verifiable and should be reported to TRAI from time to time.

• DPOs to migrate all subscribers, who have exercised their choices, to new framework from February 1, 2019.

DPOs to adhere to the following schedule for reaching out to the consumers:

  1. Reach out to at least 30% of the average subscribers base by January 7, 2019
  2. Reach out to at least 60% of the average subscribers base by January 14, 2019
  3. Reach out to 100% of the average subscribers base by January 21, 2019

In order to have a smooth implementation of the new regulatory framework, TRAI held a series of meetings and consultations with all the stakeholders, including Consumers Advocacy Groups (CAG), over the last 4-6 weeks. On December 19, 2018, the authority met CEOs of major service providers in the broadcasting and cable services sector where the issue of a smooth migration from the old to the new regulatory framework was specifically discussed.

Subsequently, to assess preparedness for migration, the authority held another meeting on December 27, 2018 with all broadcasters and leading DPOs (DTHIMSO/HITS/IPTV).

It emerged from the discussions that by and large, most of the stakeholders are ready for the implementation of the new regulatory framework. However, the progress in collecting the choice of subscribers for migration to new regulations is slow. Industry representatives emphasised there are about 150 million TV subscribers in the country. To make the subscribers aware about the new framework and to seek fresh choice of TV channels from all subscribers requires some more time and resources.

The stakeholders requested TRAI that in order to have a smooth transition of subscribers from the old to new framework, across the country, some more time may be given. Emphasis was laid that migration to the new regulatory framework need to be interruption-free and smooth to minimise inconvenience to the subscribers. Hence, a migration plan was deliberated and agreed upon by all the participants.

For the record, TRAI had notified a New Regulatory Framework in March 2017 to ensure the growth of broadcasting and cable services sector after due consultation. The framework comprises the following:

1. The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Eighth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff Order, 2017. [The Tariff Order 2017]

2. The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017. [The Interconnection Regulations 2017]

3. The Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Standards of Quality of Service and Consumer Protection (Addressable Systems) Regulations, 2017. [The QoS Regulations 2017]

The said regulatory framework could not come into effect because of some pending litigation. Accordingly, all the timelines prescribed in the said framework commenced from July 3, 2018 through a press release issued by TRAI. The prescribed due date for migration to new framework is December 29, 2018.

TRAI has advised service providers to strictly comply with various regulatory provisions contained in the Interconnection Regulations 2017, the QoS Regulations 2017 and the Tariff Order 2017 while implementing the above schedule.

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