India

DTH pricing issue still unsolved

Broadcasters, Direct to Home (DTH) service providers and consumer orgnisations came out in open on the issue of DTH tariff on Tuesday. In the second open house Consultation on ‘DTH issues relating to tariff regulation’ conducted in Pune, all three parties wrangled with each other over pricing issue.

The Direct to Home service providers demanded that tariff for DTH should be less than the 50 percent of cable as the penetration of cable network is more and larger costs should be recovered from cable. In India, the cable operators have a subscriber base in the range of 80 million as against 10 million subscribers of DTH. A Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appelate Tribunal (TDSAT) recently gave orders that broadcaster charges 50 percent rates of cable platform to the DTH operator. The TRAI has been given the responsibility of giving its recommendations regarding tariff framework in DTH services. The Punjab and Haryana High Court has also asked TRAI to fix the DTH input costs while the Information and Broadcasting Ministry has asked for suggestions on providing Value Added Services such as Movie on Demand, Video on demand ,Carriage of radio channels and other related issues.

On this background, TRAI is holding open house discussion. One such discussion was held in New Delhi recently. In the discussion in Pune, DTH service providers were of the opinion that tariff regulation should be only at the wholesale level and not at retail level since there was good competition in the DTH space. The representatives of the service providers were from Star TV, Discovery Channel, Tata Sky (MD and CEO Vikram Kaushik, who said that licenses of operators should include value added services to be provided which is the international norm), Bharti Aitrel, Sun Direct, Reliance Big TV.

TRAI member R. N. Prabhakar, N. Parmeswaran and Subodh Gupta were present at the consultation. When some participants demanded that TRAI should do a long term study of the costs and give recommendations on pricing based on the cost model, the TRAI members clarified that this will take a long time. One of the important outcome of this discussion was the debate on whether FM stations should be brought on DTH platform. The current policy of government of India stipulates these stations to be limited to cities to which they are given licenses for.

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