Indian DTH industry: Lack of interoperability
Have you ever wondered if DTH service could be as more transparent and less monopolistic
Basically I have objections on two points:
1) Lack of interoperability:when you buy DTH service, you locked into a operator for indefinitely period of time.if you decide to change the service, your current equipment(STB or Dish) for which you payed a steep amount can’t be re-used. you again have buy a new equipment from new DTH service provider to whom you are switching. again,its a consumer who takes the financial burden.
mostly likely, people would not switch service provider inorder to avoid this unnecessary expense. dth operators know this fact and often take undue advantage. they roll out services with lower tarrifs and increase it later on and their subscribers can’t do anything about it because they are locked into the service.
2) Contact terms and other bad practices: have you ever read how anti-consumer polices these DTH operators follow, two name a few:-
- Blocking off all channels including Free-to-air(FTA) channels when customers does not renew their subscription. effectively, they are asking you pay even for Free channels which is wrong and unethical.
Terms from Sun direct’s Website, same practice is followed by all other operartors: Free channels which are available on Sun Direct Platform. Sun Direct has the rights for modification and can remove these channels if they turn pay or charge separately for the same.
- changing package cost or channels in your package without user’s consent.yes, you heard that right. DTH operators can remove your favorite channel from your package or increase the cost and the worst part part is they don’t need your permission to do so. lastly, you can’t do anything as you agreed to this as part of contract you signed when you brought the service.for example, see the below statements on almost all major dth operators websites.
_Tata Sky Ltd. reserves the right to add or drop a channel/ package/ service from any package and/or change the package rates. _
“DISHTV reserves the right to add / drop a channel / package / service from any package and / or change the package rates.”
Sun direct_: “Channels lists and packages are subject to change without prior notice.”_
- closed source firmware and complete lockdown: DTH operators have made every effort possible so that customers cannot use third party STB like dreambox in attempt to maintain their monopoly. so customers are forced to use cheap Chinese STBs which result in poor video quality and the problem increase when you are using large screen LCDs.
What Is the Government Doing?
Nothing! because Govt itself is confused. as per law at present mandates interoperability between DTH operators, the same is not practically possible in today’s DTH marketplace. Currently, the two oldest DTH operators, Tata Sky and Dish TV are using the MPEG 2 technology for their regular set top boxes while the recently launched like ADAG’s Big TV DTH, Bharti etc are using MPEG 4 technology.The information and broadcasting (I&B) ministry wants the STB of DTH service providers based on the two prevailing compression technologies (MPEG 2 and MPEG 4) to be interoperable, a proposal not feasible. while shifting across DTH operators within the same technology is possible, and moving from MPEG 4 to MPEG 2 is also possible for a subscriber while retaining his set-top box, migration from MPEG 2 to MPEG 4 is not technologically possible. in essence,present Law cannot be implemented. so Govt is confused and sent the matter to Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). BIS was asked to form a Indian standard for all STBs for DTH,IPTV,CAS etc but till date it has only managed to get a draft. as a fact, India does not have any Standard for DTH STBs. hence everything is left at operators, which give importance to their profits than bothering about consumer interests.
What it should be like
DTH market should free from any kind of contracts, one should be able to buy a STB and service separately. if you want to switch to a new operator all you need to do is buy a new Viewing Card and existing installed equipment can be used. thereby avoiding the hassle of installation and saving cost of new equipment. this would increase healthy completion among the dth players and would led to lower tariffs. for example, take Mobile industry, you buy a handset of your choice and then service which suits you the best; separately giving you a power of “choice”. this makes “customer the king”.And look how this practice has led to multi-billion telecom industry. this is the reason be have lowest call rates in the world.Infact I am proud how the telecom industry works, its more FREE than system in developed markets like US.
In short, we need a Indian standard which should be implemented, so that DTH industry be Free of restrictive practices. I hope BIS is able to form a standard soon and Govt abides all players to abide by it.