Its Open Standards For DTH, Finally

New Delhi: | Updated: May 21 2003, 05:30am hrs
Its final now. Companies hopping on to the direct-to-home (DTH) broadcasting platform will have to adhere to the open-architecture system, as against proprietary technology. The government had specified open standards in the DTH guidelines more than two years ago, but some broadcasters had demanded a rollback as they already had a proprietary system in place. In case of an open system, a subscriber can use the same set-top box for accessing TV channels provided by several broadcasters.

So far, three players have applied for DTH operations: Agrani, Essel Shyam (promoted by Zee groups Subhash Chandra) and Space TV (backed by Star). Doordar-shan is also on its way to making a DTH application. DTH is all about viewing TV channels with the help of a dish-sized antenna and a set-top box, without involving an intermediary like a cablewallah.

According to a member of the taskforce, which was set up to determine the standards for DTH set-top boxes, a decision has been taken in favour of open-architecture and inter-operable system. The chairman of the taskforce, KM Paul, will vet the minutes of the taskforce meetings, after which the standards would be published. The process is expected to take another 15 days.

Although DTH players would have to adhere to open-architecture norms now, a Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) official said that standards come up for review every three years. If it is felt that the standards are not practical, they can be revised at that point, he said. Interestingly, if the norms finalised by BIS are not found acceptable by the industry after implementation, these can be amended even before the three-year period, according to BIS.

The 23-member committee, which comprises broadcasters, set-top box manufacturers, service provi-ders, consumer associations and government officials finalised the technical specifications for DTH at its meeting last week. Among the companies/ organisations represented at the taskforce meeting are All India Radio, Consumer Electronics TV Manufacturers Association, Cable Operators Federation of India, defence ministry, Telecom Engineering Centre, Agrani, HFCL, Space TV, NDS Ltd, Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd, ministry of communications (WPC Wing) and Siticable Networks.

Although DTH television was allowed by the government way back in 2000, technical specifications for it have been formalised only now. Despite some potential DTH players being ready with their proprietary technology, the government is set to have the final say in the matter.

In fact, the BIS committee on DTH was constituted a few months ago, when broadcasters told the government that open-architecture norms are not feasible for the DTH operations. With BIS finalising the standards, broadcasters objections, if any, will not be entertained.