Thursday, 9 June 2016

Quality of Service Regulations under Review

Quality of Service (QoS) and Quality of Experience (QoE) are two important aspects related to performance of communication services. The QoS is defined as totality of characteristics of a telecommunications service that bear on its ability to satisfy stated and implied needs of the user of the service. The QoE is defined as ‘The overall acceptability of an application or service, as perceived subjectively by the end-user. QoS focuses on network performance parameters and their objective quantification as a set of service parameters whereas QoE focuses on user- perceived effects. Better QoS is expected to result in enhanced QoE.
TRAI, the secor regulator has issued a consultation paper on Issues related to Quality of Services in Digital Addressable Systems and Consumer Protection on 18 May 2016.
QoS issues include a consumer’s right to information relating to services such as subscription, maintenance, complaint redressal and consumer protection etc. A fair, transparent and well defined process for subscribing to the services, maintaining the service and also for grievance redressal in an easy and user friendly manner is desirable to take care of consumer interest. These provisions need to be quantified and prescribed as minimum performance benchmarks in the QoS framework. Compliance with these benchmarks may be ensured through enforcement and monitoring provisions such as reporting, audi t, etc. Periodic surveys/studies may also need to be conducted to assess the QoE in respect of the service provided to the consumers.
 As on date, MIB has granted permission to 1024 satellite Television channels. The cable TV sector comprises of a large number of MSOs and LCOs serving almost 100 million cable TV subscribers. A large number of MSOs are small scale operators, and almost 70% of the total cable TV subscriber base in the country is shared among the top ten MSOs.
TRAI is vested with the responsibility of laying down the standards of quality of service to be provided by the service providers and ensure the quality of service and conduct the periodical survey of such service provided by the service providers so as to protect interest of the consumers of telecommunication services.”
 In order to enhance the delivery of services to the consumers and also to protect their interests, TRAI has in the past issued Quality of service regulations for different delivery platforms such as Cable TV, DTH, etc. The broadcasting sector has achieved significant level of digitizati on and it is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. In digital addressable system, TV services distributed through multiple platforms are available to consumers. In such scenario, consumer awareness about the service offerings, ease in subscription, service management and redressal of consumer complaints by the service providers in a time bound manner are vital areas of concern to ensure good quality of service to consumers. Towards this, there is a need to provide comprehensive QoS regulations not only for existing platforms like DTH, digital addressable cable system but also for emerging platforms like HITS and IPTV.
In an era of increased availability of digital technologies, use of various ICTs by service providers can be effective in enhancing the quality of services. For example, use of registered mobile, broadcast mails etc. can form an excellent mode of communication between the service providers and the subscribers to disseminate short messages related to subscription, billing, complaints etc. Further, electronic payment, web enabled online complaint redressal mechanism, electronic CAF, etc can also go a long way in offering improved quality of services.
Due to lack of adequate information, consumers remain unaware about the terms and conditions of offered services and also face difficulty in redressal of their complaints, thus leading to poor QoS. The information needed by the consumers in connection with availing and consuming the services such as details of packages, prices, a-la-carte rate of channels, CPE schemes and its maintenance provisions, complaint redressal process, timelines for various activities, refunds, and other related terms and conditions is required to be made available transparently to the consumers. This information also needs to be continually and widely disseminated to the consumers to provide ease of access and better consumer awareness.
Objectives of the Current Consultation
With multiple addressable platforms in the market and service delivery through several large and small service providers, there is a need to harmonize existing QoS regulations and formulate unified regulations for all addressable platforms.

The objectives of current consultation are:-
(a) To develop an unified QoS regulatory framework for all addressable TV Platforms (DTH/ Cable TV/ HITS/ IPTV) bringing in enhanced efficiency and transparency.
(b) To ensure protection of consumer’s interests by making them aware of the choices of services, terms and conditions of services, ease of subscription and speedy redressal of complaints.
(c) To ensure orderly growth and a level playing field for overall development of the broadcasting sector d) To encourage the use of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) towards improving the QoS.
To address QoS issues in the Digital Addressable Cable TV systems, the Authority issued the “Standards of Quality of Service (Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems) Regulations, 2012 and the “Consumers Complaint Redressal (Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems) Regulations, 2012 on 14th May, 2012.
The QoS regulations for digital addressable systems (DAS & DTH) broadly include provisions related to procedure for connection, disconnection, reconnection, and transfer & shifting; complaint redressal mechanism; protection against change in composition of the subscription package; set top box; billing & payments; manual of practice; technical standards; inspection and audit etc.

Approach for a QoS Regulatory Framework:
Multiple delivery platforms have emerged due to advancements in television distribution technologies resulting in a competitive multiplayer business environment. Consumer choice has improved and consumption patterns have also witnessed changes. In such an environment, there can be many different regulatory approaches for ensuring Quality of Service as given below:- 
Self Regulated QoS framework: DPOs voluntarily arrive at a consensus to define their QoS parameters, declare it to the subscribers and comply with the same on a voluntary basis. This approach requires the least regulatory intervention. Barring a few cases where consumer awareness is very high and multiple service providers compete to provide the service, effectiveness of such a framework may be poor.
Regulation by an Industry led body: In this approach, the broad contours for a QoS framework will be defined and formulated by the regulator. The industry will then need to set up a body which may consist of multiple stakeholders across the value chain. This body may then work out the detailed QoS regulations within the prescribed framework for the DPOs. The body will also undertake monitoring to check and ensure compliance. This approach will require minimal regulatory intervention. 
Regulated QoS framework: The regulator will lay down a detailed framework for QoS while judiciously balancing the conflicting interests of various stakeholders, including consumers. The regulator will also need to 12 put in place a mechanism to check and ensure compliance. This approach requires a higher degree of regulatory intervention and involvement in enforcement, auditing, etc.However, the subscriber is assured as the service provider has to comply with the comprehensive provisions of the QoS Regulations.
The Authority has asked the stakeholders to comment on this consultation paper by 17 June 2016.


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