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Ankita Katdare
Ankita Katdare • Oct 9, 2014

Set top box (DTH) portability in India - What we need to know.

Most middle class households in India have installed the set top boxes (STBs)for their televisions and every time we hear about the rates and offers on a DTH operator's box installed in the neighbours house. Ever since, the Direct-to-home (DTH) services have been introduced, there's been a stiff war between the leading companies to bring newer and more channels at a cheaper plan. There's too many operators out there and choosing one of them (from say Tata Sky, Videocon D2H, Airtel Digital, Big TV or Sun Direct) and sticking to that service only because the installation charges are too high (typically between Rs. 1,500-7,000) is not really a good idea.

Well, I just read the good news today morning that the set-top-box portability in India is soon to be a reality. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has paid attention to a petition filed by cable operator about the environmental damage caused by disposing of the old STBs is too high and the statistics suggest that there are approx. 2 million dead boxes in India. The hardware from one operator has to go (to become scrap) as the consumer has no choice but to buy a set top box from another operator. Designed to be proprietary in nature, the STBs we use today only work with a single DTH network.

^ Doing that also constitutes for major license violation.

With the new directives from the Centre, set top box portability should arrive all over India within next 6 months. This just means that like MNP or Mobile Number Portability, we will be able to use the STBs that can be changed to a different DTH provider upon changing subscriptions.

I believe the guidelines and the step by step process of 'How to enable set top box portability' or 'How to port my set top box to new DTH operator' should soon arrive next.

What are your thoughts on the STB portability?
Kaustubh Katdare
Kaustubh Katdare • Oct 10, 2014
The freedom of choice is always welcome and I hope it will strike a price war to retain users. At my home we use Tata Sky - and pay a LOT more than what we paid with regular cable network.

I'm however not sure whether we've universal set top boxes already.
I am so happy to hear this news. MNP has been a freedom for mobile users and now this news that the same for STBs will be a great treat for users.
Ankita Katdare
Ankita Katdare • Oct 10, 2014
Kaustubh Katdare
I'm however not sure whether we've universal set top boxes already.
We have the tech to implement them, but unfortunately they are not 'ready'.

A few days ago, I read about a Samsung hybrid Set Top Box.
I believe this is the product: https://www.samsung.com/global/business/set-top-box/
We could use something on those lines in all households across India.

PS: The idea of an universal set top box also rings a bell about the next electronics project.
There's an IEEE paper on the same too: https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/xpl/articleDetails.jsp?reload=true&arnumber=5722661
Kaustubh Katdare
Kaustubh Katdare • Apr 2, 2015
Update: The government of India is actually making this available in India. The department has issued a Tariff Order that prescribes the portability for the set top boxes installed at the customer's premises. The service providers will have to declare installation and activation charges which should not exceed Rs. 450 per customer. I'm not quite sure how easy it will be to implement this - because the software provided by the DTH service providers is vastly different.

My guess is that once you switch from say Tata Sky to Airtel, your set top box will be updated with the latest firmware from Airtel. But again, it all looks bit complicated to me.
Anoop Kumar
Anoop Kumar • Apr 3, 2015
DTH operator cost too much. For any fair amount of channel you have to pay INR. 350/- at least. This decision will surely be welcomed.
Kaustubh Katdare
I'm not quite sure how easy it will be to implement this - because the software provided by the DTH service providers is vastly different.
Yes... this seems complicated. Or, may be menu and everything will be the same just channel shuffle. Remote is also coupled with software.
I am quite sure this is quite genius task to work out with existing remote+box,
Shirsendu Das
Shirsendu Das • Nov 28, 2015
It's politically complected. Nothing else.
Ankita Katdare
Ankita Katdare • Dec 16, 2015
I just checked on the official TRAI website, but I found no mention about set-top-box portability. It looks like there has been no update since April 2015. However, two days back TRAI issued a statement where it has promised complete digitalisation of Cable TV network across India. This project is said to be completed by 31st December, 2016. The digitisation process has been already done in 4 metro cities and 38 cities.

A very welcome step that will sure help the hapless customer to choose the best and economical DTH service. This will definitely eliminate current tyranny of forcing unwanted channels by providers on the throats of customers who have no powers now to have a day in such matters. Request TRAI to enforce this forthwith.

Ankita Katdare
Ankita Katdare • Mar 11, 2019

@Pragasam Narayana Swamy True. This would indeed be a welcome move and all consumers will rejoice.

Ramesh RR
Ramesh RR • Mar 14, 2019

Unless STB are standardised like mobile phones ( where the simple SIM defines the operator), migration between TV providers will be a dream.

TRAI had raised this issue about a decade ago, but the TV group is a strong lobby.

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