Telecommunications service provider Reliance Jio in its response to a consultation paper released by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on set-top box (STB) interoperability said that it is impractical and unreasonable as it will incur huge efforts and resources.
Jio stated that the interoperability of STBs across several platforms (MSOs and DTH) is not feasible due to wide differences in terms of functionality. On one hand, the set-top box used MSO is used by demodulation RF signals (46-860 MHz) whereas DTH operators can modulate IF frequencies (950-1450 MHz). Jio said that these two systems are widely different in terms of compression, encryption, resolution and middleware also.
The telecom operator said that even if set-top box interoperability is achieved, the cost of such boxes will be higher. Moreover, subscribers have to dump their current boxes and purchase new interoperable STB which will incur unnecessary expenditure for customers and also generate a significant amount of e-waste.
Jio told the regulator that currently operators are providing new set-top boxes at very low, subsidized rates which is beneficial for customers. It also said that STBs are being provided on a rental basis which means customers return their boxes on changing operator, this reduces e-waste.
Reliance Jio also said, “In order to maintain the diversity of security solutions it is desirable to avoid a single standardized mechanism as it will be potentially prone to hacking.” As per the TSP, software-based solutions are also undesirable as they have never been tried and tested before.
Jio further added that even if a software-based solution to achieve interoperability is devised then there has to be a certification of all devices including the headend devices and transport and all other equipment and devices of STBs from the “TRUST Authority” which will be an additional financial burden on DPOs.
However, in case TRAI decides to bring STB Interoperability, Jio said that its deployment should take place with abundant caution. Jio submitted that the deployment should be done in phases similar to the roll-out of the Digital Addressable Systems (DAS) and DPOs should be provided financial incentives to upgrade their infrastructure and recover the additional investments in hardware and software upgrades.
Jio also said that live trials of interoperable STB should be conducted on large scale basis in parallel with the existing system for a minimum 18-24 months and after the trials, TRAI should conduct studies on the following aspects:
- Acceptance by subscribers in terms of costs
- Ease of implementation
- Feasibility of co-existence of the interoperable system with the existing system of DPOs
- Availability and effectiveness of after-sales support system
- Increased burden of cost on DPOs and subscribers
- Evaluate the total size of the market for interoperable STBs as per STB’s due for replacement and number of people that shift base frequently and require interoperable STB
- Authority to fix and freeze standards with respect to compression, encryption, meditation, resolution and middleware.
- To make the LCOs last-mile cable network receives multiple feeds on the same network from all the DPO’s or ensure LCO’s install parallel RG1/RG6 cable network so as to ensure ‘open access’ from multiple DPO’s.
Lastly, Reliance Jio reiterated that it is not desirable to have set-top box interoperability in the first place, neither presently nor the times to come.