Open-architecture DTH Boxes Are Fine, Says Govt

New Delhi | Updated: Aug 23 2002, 05:30am hrs
While its official that the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has been entrusted with the job of analysing the set-top box architecture for Direct-to-Home (DTH) television, government circles maintain that the existing norms are feasible. Earlier, broadcasters had pointed out that open-architecture set-top box, as per the DTH guidelines, is not feasible for the DTH market.

Responding to repeated pleas of broadcasters interested in DTH, the government directed the BIS to find out whether the open-architecture standard for set-top box was feasible or not. Having done that, the government is convinced that theres no problem with open-architecture. Also, highly-placed sources in the government claim that broadcasters are demanding proprietary set-top boxes, as opposed to open-architecture boxes, to suit their own interests.

Proprietary set-top box, which allows DTH subscribers to connect to only one bouquet of channels, ensures that viewers do not switch over to another broadcaster. On the other hand, open-architecture boxes would allow subscribers to connect to several bouquets through a single DTH platform. According to broadcasters, most countries have adopted the proprietary model, and not the open-architecture one.

BIS, which is doing the feasibility study for set-top boxes on behalf of the government, will take into consideration manufacturers from countries all over the world so that the coverage is global, a source said. BIS is estimated to take around a month to complete the feasibility study.

Among the other DTH guidelines, broadcasters would have a 20 per cent sectoral cap, and the total foreign equity holding in the applicant company would not exceed 49 per cent. Within the foreign equity, the foreign direct investment (FDI) component cannot exceed 20 per cent.

The Union Cabinet cleared DTH broadcasting in November 2000. Government followed that up by lifting the ban on Ku Band, which is the frequency on which DTH broadcasting is possible. Essentially a delivery system, DTH will enable subscribers to get television channels with a pizza-size dish antenna and a decoder box, without a cable connection or large dishes.