DTH operators want change in licensing regime to enable infrastructure sharing

Trai wants to enable distribution platform operators to share the available resources in the television distribution industry and reduce their capital expenditures


Currently, there are seven DTH operators, two HITS operators, 900 multi-system operators and 60,000 cable operators in the country. Photo: Mint
Currently, there are seven DTH operators, two HITS operators, 900 multi-system operators and 60,000 cable operators in the country. Photo: Mint

New Delhi: The direct-to-home (DTH) operators, cable operators and head-end in the sky (HITS) networks on Monday welcomed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) move to facilitate infrastructure sharing in the television distribution sector and requested for an amendment in the existing licensing guidelines.

The regulator had issued a pre-consultation paper on infrastructure sharing in the television distribution sector in May, followed by a consultation paper in September to enable distribution platform operators (DPOs) to share the available resources in the industry and reduce their capital expenditures.

DPOs obtain television channels from the broadcasters and deliver these channels to the subscribers directly (through DTH operators) or indirectly through cable operators.

Currently, all DPOs are required to establish and maintain their own infrastructure for distribution of satellite television services to the subscribers.

At an open house discussion organized by Trai on Monday, the DPOs expressed concern over excessive cost involved in the television distribution set-up and called for an amendment in the existing policy guidelines for different operators. Currently, there are seven DTH operators, two HITS operators, 900 multi-system operators (MSOs) and 60,000 cable operators in the country.

“It is a welcome step in terms of infrastructure sharing and the fact that it is going to be voluntary in nature. That’s definitely something DTH operators can look among themselves to see whether it makes sense for them or not,” said Himanshu Patil, chief operating officer at Videocon d2h Ltd, during the discussion.

Anil Malhotra, chief operating officer at Siti Networks Ltd, agreed that it was a long-awaited move. “There is a need for a change in the existing licensing conditions which currently don’t allow two platforms to use the same infrastructure facility,” he said.

Enabling infrastructure sharing will help the DPOs to reduce overall costs especially in remote areas, which require huge investment and deployment of additional resources. The authority also said that it will look into introducing a licensing framework for firms which are not a part of broadcast industry, but can exclusively provide distribution infrastructure to multiple firms.

“There are back-end infrastructure providers in telecom such as Ericsson which are the common providers. Similarly, the platforms which are not a part of the industry but can become infrastructure providers would lead to more conducive environment in the industry,” said Trai chairman R.S. Sharma.

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