1.Cable TV networking started some time in 1985 with transmission of video tape replays aggregated with S Band satellite casted two Door Darshan channels. Later with STAR TV launching programs, followed by ZEE News and Movies the number of channels rose to 12.The service was NOT considered legal till promulgation of Cable TV Networks Regulation Ordinance 1994, which later became an Act in 1995.
2.That promulgation established a new organization, popularly kno wn as MSO, which established multi channel super headends, starting with 12 cxhannels rising up to 60 channels. These MSOs caused those primitive cable TV networks erected by the so called Last Mile Cable Operator (LCO) to close down their program aggregation set ups taking feed through coaxial cable from MSO Headends against some fixed monthly payments.
3.Originally number of channels was 12 which rose from 12 to 60 to 92 to 106 by 2002. At that time it was all analog uni-directional transmission, using coaxial cable transmission serving a radius of 5 kms from the Headends where conforming to IS-13420. Such headends were managed by distributors of the MSOs. These Distributors were affluent LCOs.
4.At that time one program occupied a 7 or 8 MHz wide channel width on 47-862 MHz RF spectrum and each program was called a channel. Hence program and channel became synonymous( in digital transmissions 10 to 20 programs are compressed into one channel’s space). Channel and program cannot be the same in Digital CATV.
5.In 1995, all programs satellite or terrestrially broadcasted were free to viewer. Cable TV enhanced reach of programs to homes and provided them the facility of aggregation of content at one place and transporting that program stream to the viewer’s TV set. As a value addition, service providers integrated VCR replays showing latest feature films.
6.As connectivity scaled up, Broadcasters introduced CAS at Headend level by installing addressable IRDs (Integrated Receiver and Decoder) in the name of improved picture quality through digital addressable satellite transmission, at Cable Headends. As eyeballs viewership scaled up, and system stabilized, PAY content was introduced. Negotiations were arbitrary. Basis for pricing of content ( cost of content, taxes, transporting cost, access fee, archiving, if any, and percentage contribution as a whole distributed over the contracted aggregated viewership in the interconnect offers to arrive at the MRP) was never brought to public domain. For reasons NOT known till today, MIB and TRAI too could NOT extract this information from PAY TV Broadcasters.
7. With too frequent a raise in pay content rates, hue and cry was created by cable operators since subscribers were NOT prepared to increase the subscription while cable operator had to pay more through the MSO to the broadcaster. In 2002, Cable Act Amendment 2002 was promulgated introducing Conditional Access System (CAS) for addressability on PAY TV programs. This required heavy capital outlay at Headends for hardware, CAS, SMS (Subscriber Management System) and Set Top Boxes, besides enhancement in electrical load due to air-conditioning, power backup etc. To reduce such expenses, optical fiber was introduced to enhance the radius of operation to 34 kms without an EDFA (Erbium Doped Fiber Amplifier) and 67 kms with one EDFA, so that number of headends could be reduced. Thus came in the concept of HFC (hybrid Coax Fiber) Networks. HFC networks caused a consolidation of 10 to 12 headends in any municipal area.
8.Indian standards for the Set Top Box(IS 15244 and 15245) were published in August 2002 for the manufacturers to prepare for manufacture, traders to insist upon specified performance from suppliers and network engineers to scrutinize the networks.
9.Such a well intended bill remained a non-starter because :-
(a)Broadcasters did not reveal the basis for pricing of their content by a specified date.
(b) MIB has no enforcement staff.
(c) Cabled Broadcasts, inspite of broadcasting being a Central Govt Subject, were left to be administered by the State Govts.
(d) Awareness was not created to involve the end user.
(e) Cable Operator (LCO) was not cooperative apprehending back- dated entertainment tax demands when connectivity would be disclosed.
(f) Lack of political will to enforce the statute till July 2007 when the Hon’ble High Court at Delhi intervened. CAS was introduced in CHENNAI and parts of Delhi, Mumbai and Delhi.
(g) Nothing much was achieved because neither the Broadcaster nor the Consumer or the Cable Operator were interested in implementation of CAS (Conditional Access Systems).
10.In the mean time DTH was launched which eroded Cable TV connectivity because :-
(a) There was no intermediary like Cable Operator for the consumer.
(b) Better picture and sound quality was delivered.
(c) System was on pre-paid basis and digitally addressable.
(d) QoS (Quality of Service) was more professional
(e) An alternative to un-organized Cable TV Network Operator had emerged.
11.This duopoly prevailed till 2011.
12.In the intervening period, after 2007, a lot of new content became available due to downlinking permissions granted by the MIB. The number of transponders on Satellites used for DTH were limited and were not adequate to downlink the volume of content permitted for downlinking.
13. The solution was sought in mandating digital transmission on cable networks with a capacity to transport 1000 to 2000 programs.
14. Cable TV Networks Amendment Act 2011, Amendment Rules 2012 along with TRAI Regulatioons No 9,12 and 13 were issued for DAS implementation in a phased manner between 2012 and 2014.
15. Cablec Tv Networking is one industry which in the last 29 years has connected over 120 million homes with a network capacity (depending upon quality of hardware) to carry upto 106 analog channels/programs or 1800 digital programs. This had, upto 2011, total private investment of over 25000 crores generating a revenue of 12-13000 crores annually.
16. This networking service attracted attention of bureaucracy only as a source of tax revenue, wherein government does’nt give any thing in return to the taxed community. Hence Entertainment Tax and Service Tax were clamped upon Cable TV Operators.
Salient Aspects Of Cable TV Networks Regulation Act 1995 Amendment 2011
17. The Cable TV Act was amended in 2011 and digitization with addressability mandated. Salient aspects were :-
(a) All transmissions on CATV Networks ( Free to Viewer and PAY TV) to be digital , encrypted and controlled by Subscriber Management System(SMS).
(b) Television content transmitted through Cable TV networks to comprise of two tiers; viz a basic tier carrying Free to Viewer content and a PAY tier carrying PAY TV Content. Both tiers were mandated to be digitally addressable.
(c) Digital Headends (undertaking encoding, encryption, multiplexing, modulation and combining of content for transmission through digital addressable system) to be registered with MIB.
(d)Subscriber to be given facility to select
(i) programs to be viewed from a rate card,
(ii) opt for mode of acquisition of Set Top Box (STB) as outright purchase, hire-purchase or leasing also from the rate card,
(iii) apply for availing DAS service through a Subscriber Application Form (SAF) containing terms and conditions of service as agreement between subscriber and the Headend Service Provider (HSP) i.e. a B2C business model and
(iv) to be given itemized bills for services delivered and taxes levied.
(e)The itemized bills were to contain location of Headend, their MIB registration No, Entertainment Tax Registration No, Service Tax Registration No, Subscriber ID No, Cable Operator ID No STB Ser No.
(f)Cable TV Networks were provided RoW (Right of Way) for their networks for laying their strands underground or overhead.
(g)Cable Act Amendment Rules 2012 laid down provisions for enacting the amendment supplemented by TRAI Regulations No 9,12 and 13 vof 2012.
(h)DAS implementation was planned in four phases starting from Nov 12 to end of 2014.
18. Cable TV networking, other than activities required at the headend and its registration, was left to be registered with the Deptt of Post. This meant that Headend Service provider required one registration for the Headend and another registration for operating their direct points network.
19. The minimum number of channels in the basic tier has been specified as 100 by the Central Government genre wise for providing mix of entertainment, information, and education and such other programme. The number of channels may also be different for different states, cities, towns or areas as the case may be.
20. The Central Government may specify the maximum amount which a cable operator may demand from the subscribers for receiving the programs transmitted in the basic service tier delivered by such operators. These specified amounts for basic tier may also be different for different states, cities, towns or areas as the case may be. The TRAI has specified this amount to be Rs 100/- per subscriber per month.
21. Headend Service Providers shall publicise, in the prescribed manner, the subscription rates, bouquets and ‘a-la-carte’ and the periodic intervals after which such subscriptions are payable for receiving each provided by such cable operator. In fact a rate card is to be presented to a subscriber at the time of filling up SAF/CAF and replicated on service provider’s web site too.
22. The viewer shall use an addressable system (Set Top Box) to be attached to his receiver set for receiving programs transmitted on PAY channels.
23. Every Headend Service provider shall submit a report, in the prescribed form and manner, containing the information regarding The number of total subscribers (On his CATV network) Subscription rates. Number of subscribers receiving programmes in basic tier or particular programme or set of programme transmitted in PAY content. Such report shall also contain details of rate of amount payable by the cable operator to any broadcaster.
24. Equipment required for mandatory addressability shall be installed by Headend Service provider, registered with the MIB, to meet the date specified in the notification for DAS implementation.
25. The contravention of the Cable TV Networks Regulation Act 1995 Amendment Act 2011 shall be a cognizable offence.
So ! What is Addressability?
28.01 At the Cable TV Headend :-
(a)Encoding and Encryption Hardware Installation
(b)Intimation to franchisees and viewers of the encryption system used and the type of matching SET TOP BOX which will be required for use.
(c)Subscriber Authorisation Software
(d)Subscriber Management System Installation.
(e) Recruitment and training of staff to handle Subscriber Management, Authorisation and Billing Systems.
(f)Preparing and training staff to undertake bi-annual audit of Headend by Broadcasters as per Schedule I of TRAI Regulation No 9 of 2012.
(g)Establishing 18x365 Customer Care and system for generation of itemized bill for every subscriber showing (i) Customer Details and Address (ii) Billing Period and Date, (iii) Due Date for Payment (iv) Details of amounts billed for Basic Tier, PAY Tier, Entertainment Tax, STB financing if any, (v) Other Charges if any (vi) Service Tax and (vii) Total Amount Payable
(h) Preparation of list of subscribers with addresses and other location details.
(i) Generation of MIS for MIB, TRAI and Broadcasters (Subscribers List Report, Record of Activation/Deactivation and its logs, No of Active Subscribers, Ageing Reports etc) 28.02
At the Distribution Network:-
(a) Scrutiny of network to ensure that signal levels at subscriber/viewer end are as per IS 13420, 15245 or 16128 (depending on whether STB is Digital MPEG2 or MPEG4) the node is earthed and amplifier cascade after the node in the network is NOT more than 3.
(b) Provision of return path, if a raise in ARPU is desired by delivering Broadband and on Demand infotainment services.
(c) Termination of all open ports in amplifiers, taps off and splitters with 75 terminators. Respacing of amplifiers at 300 metres for 500 series cable, or equivalent, at 180 metres for RG-11, or equivalent, cable at 120 metres for RG6 , or equivalent cable. .
(d) Ensuring that signal levels at all amplifiers are in put 70 dB µV and output 95 dBµV flat downstream and that Set Top Box return path signal is a max of 114 dBµ
(e) Getting SAF filled by the subscriber correctly, with choice of programs from the rate card provided by the HSP and selection of mo9de for procurement of STB by the subscriber.
(f) Submission of SAF, on line or physical, to HSP for allocation of Customer ID for subscriber, linked to Cable Operator ID paired with serial numbers of the STB and viewing card.
(g) Installing STB, filling up installation report and getting service activated.
(h) Explaining to subscriber the EPG, facility of 18x365 Customer Care, Complaint Redressal Procedure, details of Nodal Officer and rights of customer in complaints redressal with TRAI or Consumer Forum.
Impact of DAS
29.Broadcaster. They have to fix per program per subscriber per month rate for PAY TV content to be paid by the Headend Service Provider. Though DAS implies 100% true reflection of connectivity in the monthly Broadcaster’s Report, and payments computed therefrom, which could decline, it is likely that the practice of minimum connectivity based agreements shall cease. Once the system is in place, this bogey of under declaration has to cease, the connectivity count shall have to be actual and business model reinstated afresh. Prime time will be 2000 and 2300 hrs. Demands on content shall be more compelling because viewers will pay for what they watch. The phenomenon for carriage fee to get better visibility must demise because in digital transmission either the transport stream is visible or not visible at the STB. If visible all visible content has equal clarity in picture and sound. However for fancy program index placement carriage fee may be charged; for example if a program is to be mapped as 555 or 777, then such placement shall attract carriage fee. The rush for placement on channel map will also cease because output of Set Top Box will be only on one channel. Since there have been cases of dragging broadcasters into litigation, a practice of appointing their buffers, called aggregators, might continue along with mal practices introduced by such aggregators. However the regulator might lay down that inter-connect will have to be signed by Broadcaster and NOT their aggregator.
30. Advertiser. Depending upon actual demand and reach of program, decisions on release of advertisements shall be revised. Drop in Advertisement revenue for some PAY Channels may force their reversion to Free to Viewer.
31. Cable Operators. These will be distinctly divided in two categories ; FIRST the HSP (Headend Service Provider) registered with the MIB for establishing a digital Headend and conforming to Cable Act Amendment 2011, Rules 2012, TRAI Regulations No 9,12 amd 13 and SECOND the cable operator, NOT performing the technical functions of HSP, to be registered with the Deptt of Posts. Investments in hardware for headend and network upgrades shall be required by the HSP who should consider making the VCR/VCD/Server based replays channel also a Pay Channel to reap the entertainment tax, and seek premiers on Cable TV networks. Better QoS (Quality of Service) required with exact subscriber base record keeping and payment of dues to Government, MSO and Broadcaster. This would set aside allegations of piracy by film producers and give them revenues far in excess of Cinema Box Offices. If a requirement of keeping 90 days recording of content, like DTH is imposed, heavy investments would be required in servers and ingest. But that can be leveraged by HSPs by introducing advertisement free content on time deferred tv programming services priced accordingly. However cable operators, registered with Dept of Posts and better understood as LCOS, are likely to impede DAS implementation for fear of losing their under-declaration by raising issues such as ‘Who will own the customer (Obviously the HSP because DAS is a B2C model wherein the customer is an entity in the SMS) ?’, ‘Who will bill the customer (The HSP because bills will be generated at the Headend in the SMS, showing LCO too as an entity, which can be accessed by the LCO, if so agreed in the interconnect offer with the HSP, on their stationery not withstanding the fact the bill caption has to primarily reflect HSP details) ?, neither understanding the SMS nor the importance of SAF and hence NOT letting SMS function as intended. In such an eventuality, HSP would be forced to issue bulk bill to LCO but DAS implementation as enacted would FAIL.
32. Subscribers. Unless SAF is got filled up by empathetic explanation of DAS by Cable Operator’s representative with the Subscriber, impact of DAS cannot be visible. Subscribers, with STBs hurriedly installed in DAS implementation, and NOT receiving itemized bills have NOT understood DAS, demise of analog transmissions, addressability, customer care aspects etc. They may now insist that PAY content is without advertisements since they are now paying for content watching and NOT advertisement watching. Resistance could build up on boycotting pay channels with advertisements. HSPs should be allowed to block advertisements or charge carriage fee from content providers for content with advertisements to offer discounts to end viewers. The question who will pay for the Set Top Box shall be decided by market forces. One wonders why this question is being raised ? When Terrstrial TV service is watched who pays for TV set ? When cellular telephone is ordered who pays for hand set ? Perhaps it is the dynamics of change which is provoking such issues. In the National scenario too, Govt is withdrawing subsidies. The days of free lunches have to end some day, never to return.
33. Government. Will fix the rates for c tier and enforce declaration of connectivity under fear of prosecution. There can be greater policing of broadcasters and TV programmes. Tax revenue will rise.
34. Content Providers. Programming, both on Free to Viewer and PAY TV channels will change drastically. Today the viewer gets to see is not what he wants. The content at present is dumb. Besides the basic services tier, requirement may emerge for niche fare, intelligent fare and premium fares, since metering will now be possible. Content will be the king wielding the bargaining power.
35. Headends. These may become TV portals. The goal is communications unlimited by bandwidth. If service providers have the finance, vision, management and technical expertise, they can graduate to delivery of interactive delivery of voice, video and data. In times to come, for that one time cost of penetration of coaxial cable into a home, the return from entertainment TV content delivery will be a minuscule of payouts accruing on subscribers to value added services.
Observations on DAS Implementation
36. Planned for four phases:-
Phase I – Chennai, Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai by 31 Oct 2012.
Phase II - 38 cities with population over one million by 31 Mar 2013
Phase III- Other Urban Cities by 30 Sep 2014 extended to Dec 2015
Phase IV – Rest of India by 31 Dec 2014 extended to 31 Dec 2015
37. Task force was created at the MIB. Success was reckoned with number of STBs pushed out of MSO warehouses. The stress was on volume NOT quality either of STB or of hardware installed in Headends. Subscribers in phases I and II do not understand DAS, are NOT entered in SMS, are NOT getting itemized bills, have NOT seen a rate card to select programs of their choice and be billed for. Nice looking female actresses on TV programs are reminding about subscribers to submit SAF without emphasizing that without compilation of details (choice of programs with rates on date of filling up the form, STB Serial Number, Viewing Card Serial No and Cable Operator) required in SAF, their data cannot be entered in SMS to respond to intended benefits for DAS.
38. Phase III too is approaching deadline for completion with Phase IV deadline just a few months away. This has been extended to Dec 2015.
39. As it stands now, DAS is NOT implemented in letter and spirit of Act, Rules, Regulations and QoS for phases I and II despite elapsed dead lines.
40. It seems to be following the failure pattern of CAS as it happened. Extending dates for implementation without enforcement is a typical bureaucratic exercise without producing tangible results. While extending time limits for phases III and IV to Dec 2015, in August 2014, the reasons for indifferent implementation of phases I and II have NOT been enquired in to or placed in public domain. Is it because the bench marks are NOT understood by the bureaucracy or their lack of knowledge about practical aspects of such a service?
41. Cheap consumer grade hardware dictated by amount of discounts and terms of credits has landed in networks which does’nt seem to be conforming to Indian Standards. Govt seems to be least bothered because capital involved is totally private.
42. Headend registrations too have moved at snail’s pace. Out of 6000 headends it is estimated that less than 150 registrations have been issued so far. There is no prescribed charter for issue of registrations after the application with registration fee has been received at the MIB.
43. Right of Way (RoW) provided in the Cable Act Amendment does’n find any mention in Cable Act Amendment Rules 2012 with the result that fibre lay out across the country is shabbier than coaxial cables laid earlier.
44. As a possible catalyst, HITS service has been established by JAIN HITS. This could largely by-pass the requirement for pending registration of Headends, digitize existing networks to DAS addressability in less than 3 days and a fraction of the capital required for a new DAS Headend. HITS can also mitigate expenses on meeting the QoS requirement in general and cost of establishing 18x24 customer care in general. Another LoI has been issued to Hinduja Ventures (InCablenet MSO). Lack of awareness amongst subscribers and cable operators in promoting DAS is a writing on the wall which is NOT being read.
45. No training or advisory institutions have been established for DAS management.
46. With all the good things stated above for DAS, lack of an advisory authority will remain a serious void in DAS implementation for the following reasons :-
(a)Cable TV networking is to be recognized as multi program, multi channel wireline broadcast, over wireline (HFC) medium, a central Govt subject, left at present to State Govts to administer resulting in apathetic condition of networks which are nothing but electronic slums.
(b) Dispensing with entertainment tax and creating a new Central Govt Tax, to be called CABLE TV TAX, or such other name, where all revenue would flow into the consolidated fund of India to be re-appropriated to State Govts in proportion of Cable TV connectivity in their states. This will bring uniformity in taxation and scrapping Service Tax since double taxation will then be mitigated.
(c) Establishing professional NGO institutions, like IETE, BES or the type, to impart training in wireline broadcasting, including IPTV, and under take technical audit of networks with advisory roles to fill up technical voids. The service could be against payments. However technical qualification for technicians could be mandated.
47. Cable service needs quantum change in management, attitudes, engineering and customer care. There is need for professional network builders and quality assurance agencies. They have to be complimentary to TELCOS .
48. All the same, DAS legislation is a land mark in Indian CATV environment and should act as a spring board to launch benefits of Convergence through removal of Digital Divide by delivering Broadband over TV.