TRAI removes NCF ceiling; ups DPO bouquet discounts; suggests tech upgrades to FreeDish
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2 weeks ago 06:00:54am Television

TRAI removes NCF ceiling; ups DPO bouquet discounts; suggests tech upgrades to FreeDish

New Delhi, 09-July-2024, By IBW Team

TRAI removes NCF ceiling; ups DPO bouquet discounts; suggests tech upgrades to FreeDish

Amongst a slew of recommendations to the government, telecom and broadcast regulator TRAI yesterday issued a new set of tariff regulations, which removed earlier ceiling on network capacity fees and allows DPOs to offer bouquet discount up to 45 percent, while separately suggesting major tech upgrades to pubcaster Doordarshan’s FreeDish platform, including that boxes should be made addressable and signals should be encrypted.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, which has moved into a swanky office area covering several floors of the South Delhi-located World Trade Centre, also recommended that a pay channel available at no subscription fee on the DTH platform of the public service broadcaster (FreeDish) has to be declared FTA by the broadcaster for all addressable distribution platforms so as to have a level-playing field.

The TRAI recommendations were part of amendments in the  Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Eighth) (Addressable Systems) Tariff (Fourth Amendment) Order, 2024 (1 of 2024), Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Interconnection (Addressable Systems) (Sixth Amendment) Regulations, 2024 (4 of 2024), the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Standards of Quality of Service and Consumer Protection (Addressable Systems) (Fourth Amendment) Regulations, 2024 (3 of 2024).

“These amendments, except for few clauses, shall come into force after 90 days from the date of its publication in the official gazette,” TRAI said in a statement.

It added that the amendments are aimed to facilitate growth of the broadcasting sector by reducing regulatory mandates and compliance requirements, provide flexibility to the service providers to adopt a market driven approach while safeguarding the interest of the consumers and

promoting ease of doing business by simplifying regulatory provisions.

Some of the highlights of the TRAI recommendations include the following:

Tariff Order

 Ceilings of Rs 130 for 200 channels and Rs 160 on more than 200 channels have been removed on Network Capacity Fee (NCF) and is kept under forbearance to make it market driven as well as equitable.  Service providers may now charge different NCF based on number of channels, different regions, different customer classes or any combination thereof. To ensure transparency, all such charges have to be mandatorily published by the service providers and communicated to the consumers besides reporting to the TRAI.

  1. DPOs or distribution platform operators have now been permitted to offer discounts up to 45 percent while forming their bouquets to enable flexibility and to offer attractive deals to the consumers. Earlier this discount was permitted only up to 15 percent.

iii.          DPOs have been mandated to declare tariffs of their platform services.

Interconnection Regulations

  1. Acknowledging the proliferation of HD television sets and to encourage transmission of high-definition content, distinction between HD and SD channels has been removed for the purpose of carriage fee.
  2. Carriage fee regime simplified and made technology neutral by prescribing only single ceiling for carriage fee, thereby providing the DPOs with the option to charge a lesser carriage fee as deemed appropriate.

iii.          The above measures are expected to not only simplify the offerings of the service providers to the consumers but also promote the availability of high-quality channels, TRAI stressed.

QoS Regulations 

  1. Charges for services like installation and activation, visiting, relocation and temporary suspension which were prescribed earlier under regulation have now been kept under forbearance. DPOs have to publish the charges of their services for clarity and transparency to consumers.
  2. Relaxation of certain regulatory compliances for small DPOs.

iii.          Duration/Term/Validity of all prepaid subscriptions to be specified in number of days only for greater clarity to the consumers.

  1. DPOs may display Distributor Retail Price (DRP) in the electronic programme guide (EPG) along with MRP for channels.
  1. DPOs to categorise platform service channels under the genre ‘Platform Services’ in the EPG.
  2. DPOs to display respective MRP of the platform service channel in the EPG against each platform service to ensure transparency and to provide an option of activation/deactivation of any platform service.

Financial Disincentives & Other Matters

To have proper checks and balances, TRAI has also introduced financial disincentives for contravention of provisions of the Tariff Order and certain other provisions of Interconnection Regulation and QoS Regulation to ensure accountability of service providers.

Service providers are to publish all the information related to tariff and other charges which have now been kept under forbearance, on their websites. Moreover, they need to communicate the tariff and other charges to the subscribers, pertaining to the plans being subscribed.

Listing of channels in EPG

  1. While giving permission to each channel, TRAI has suggested MIB seek information from broadcasters about primary language of each channel and sub-genre of every non-news channel as per Interconnection Regulation  2017 and display the same on Broadcast Seva portal of MIB to enable DPOs to place the channel at appropriate place in the EPG for easy navigation by the consumers, in accordance with the present regulation.

Upgradation of FreeDish Platform

  1. In order to ensure quality of viewing experience, prevent unauthorized re-transmission of television channels to combat piracy and maintain the record of subscribers, Prasar Bharati to take steps to convert DD Free Dish platform from a non- addressable system to an addressable system and make a beginning by encrypting the signals of private satellite television channels at FreeDish headend before uplinking. Subsequently, all other channels of DD Free Dish may also be transmitted in encrypted form.
  2. Public service broadcaster will be provided with the requisite exemptions of TRAI Regulations, once such notification is issued by MIB.

iii.          Prasar Bharati may utilize indigenous technologies for Conditional Access System (CAS), Subscriber Management System (SMS) and interoperable Set Top Boxes (STBs).

  1. Prasar Bharati should adopt interoperable STBs for FreeDish to act as catalyst for transitioning the entire ecosystem from operator-based STBs to interoperable STBs to empower consumers’ choice. This will eliminate the need for changing STBs every time the service provider is changed.
  2. A roadmap for transition of DD Free Dish from non-addressable to addressable platform along with authorizing manufacturers and distributors by Prasar Bharati for sales and aftersales service of STBs has been suggested to MIB.
  1. MIB may direct private DPOs to adopt and implement interoperable STBs.

Finally, pointing out that though it has attempted to cover all areas discussed in open houses on issues relating to broadcast and cable services, TRAI said, “However, during the consultation process for these amendments, certain other issues were also raised by various stakeholders, which need to undergo a detailed consultation process for the consideration of TRAI. These issues and suggestions have been noted and TRAI will come out with a comprehensive consultation paper shortly to address the relevant issues.”

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