TRAI's mandate for DTH and Cable TV operators: Everything you need to know

By: The Mobile Indian network, New Delhi Last updated : January 31, 2019 3:33 pm

With the deadline day just hours away from completion, we’re here to discuss the new TRAI framework, the reason behind the implementation, its impact on users and broadcasters and the several operators who have already submitted their approval on the new scheme.

In a move to make TV viewing more affordable, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) devised a new framework for DTH and Cable TV operators, thus giving users the freedom to opt for their own channels instead of the pack of channels that the service provider offers. The new set of regulations will be effective from February 1 and will offer a fair price scheme to users and broadcasters alike. 


But what does this mean to a consumer? With the deadline day just hours away from completion, we’re here to discuss the new TRAI framework, the reason behind the implementation, its impact on users and broadcasters and the several operators who have already submitted their approval on the new scheme. Additionally, we’ll help you decide how to choose your own pack from a list of free-to-air and paid channels and how much you might have to pay for the same. 



A brief of the new regulations:


  1. Under the new framework, users will have to choose from a basic pack of 100 channels. 
  2. DTH and cable operators will have to allow users to opt for their individual channels or channel packages. 
  3. There will be a personalised “a la carte” option for all users which will allow them to choose their own selection of channels. 
  4. The base pack that a user wishes to choose will have to include a minimum of 100 channels for which the user will have to pay a maximum of Rs 130 excluding GST. 
  5. Additional channels will have to be bought as a slot that can hold up to 25 channels and will be charged at a maximum of Rs 20. 
  6. While both SD and HD channels can be added to the same list, the prices of the HD will be relatively higher than that of SD channels. 
  7. When choosing all free-to-air channels, a user will be bound to pay a Network Capacity Fee (NCF). NCF is like a rental charge of the TV connected to your home and will not be more than Rs 130 per month for 100 channels. In case a user wished to add more channels out of the 534 number of free to Air (FTA) channels, they’ll have to pay Rs. 20 for 25 additional channels. For example, if a user wished to include a total of 175 FTA channels, they’ll have to pay a maximum of Rs (130+20+20+20) = Rs 190. 
  8. Prices of non-FTA channels will be dependent on the fee that the broadcaster has chosen to offer their channel for. Up till now, users can choose from a total of 330 pay channels, the prices of which can be viewed from here. These premium channels will be charged anywhere from Rs 0 to Rs 60. 
  9. Users can also choose to add multiple channels from the same broadcaster in the form of bouquets. As of now, there are 68 bouquets to choose from 17 broadcasters who have added their channels for users to move into their à la carte list. Here’s a list of bouquets that are currently available to choose from.


What do these new regulations bring to the customer?


TRAI’s latest efforts are chiefly to benefit consumers who will now have the freedom to choose what he/she wishes to watch and pay only for that. Users will thus not be force-fed with unwanted channels and will be provided and charged only for the channels they watch. This was also noted from the fact that it was surveyed that 80 percent of TV viewers only browsed through 40 channels of lesser on a regular basis. 


The latest changes also mean a few channels offered by broadcasters will be available for reduced prices. While the prices for the pay channels and the NCF free are more or less the same, the regulatory has made it clear that it will soo stabilise the market price of each and every channel, bouquets and minimum fees. What this means is, users across different service providers will pay approximately the same price toward their monthly DTH bill if they choose for the same set of channels. 


What happens if you wish to continue with your older DTH plan?


If you’re one of those who has subscribed to a semi-annual or annual plan from a DTH service provider, you’ll still be able to enjoy all the services that you opted for. Users with such plans will only have to revise to a new plan once their current plan expires. 


However, users will have to opt for a base pack before the end of January, failing to do which might result in the disruption of major services. The base packs will have to be updated by contacting the operator and in case of disruption of services, users wouldn’t have to pay additional amounts if the provider doesn’t resolve the issue in under 72 hours. 


Users who don’t the exercise the new scheme might be forced down to view the operator’s base pack, meaning they’ll only get to view free to air

channels and none of the pay channels. 


Are free-to-air channels completely free?


Actually, no. As much as TRAI wants this to sound casual, the scheme of viewing free-to-air channels are rather confusing for a layperson. The free-to-air channels will be part of the base pack that users can wish to personalise for themselves by choosing a minimum of 100 channels from 534 FTA and 330 Pay channels. 


What you’re essentially doing is buying slots of free space to add free channels and pay channels. This free space can then configured to your own choices as you’ll have to choose a minimum of 100 channels for which you’ll have to choose to pay a minimum of Rs 150 approximately. In case, a few of the channels selected under those 100 are pay channels, you might have to pay an extra for the channels individually or opt for a bouquet of pay channels. 


Can you tweak your own basic set of 100 FTA channels?


Yes. There are three ways to look into this. 


A. When offered a set of 100 FTA channels in the base pack, customers can wish to interchange any of the 534 channels offered to make their own set of 100 channels. This will not result in additional payments if the 100 channels chosen are free-to-air channels. 


In this case, Users will only have to pay a total of Rs 130 plus GST. 


B. Opting for ‘x’ number of pay channels instead of the same number of FTA channels 


Users also have the choice to choose a bunch of pay channels instead of FTA channels so that they don’t have to pay an additional Rs 20 for 25 channels slot. This means, ‘x’ pay channels will replace ‘x’ number of FTA channels in the minimum set of 100 channels where a user will only have to pay the minimum base pack and an additional charge of the pay channels with no charges for the extra slot. 


In this case, a customer will have to pay a total of Rs 130 plus (Charges for ‘x’ Pay channels) + GST.


C. Getting an ‘x’ number of Pay channels without removing any FTA channels from the minimum slot


Customers who wish do not wish to remove any of their 100 available FTA channels but want to add ‘x’ Pay channels separately will have to pay the minimum base price plus charges for ‘x’ Pay channels plus Rs 20 for every 25 channels added plus GST.


For examples, if the user wished to add 25 number of pay channels to his already configured base package of 100 FTA channels, he or she will have to pay Rs 130 (approximately) + (Charges for ‘x’ Pay channels) + Rs 20 (for a slot of 25 extra channels) + GST.


D. You might have to pay the Network Capacity Fee even if you only opt for only 10 pay channels.   


What happens to homes with multiple TVs?


Unfortunately, the new set of regulations fail to provide a clear cut idea how much more users will have to pay for an additional TV connection. According to TRAI “ each connection is counted and pay channels are paid as per the number of set-top boxes”. This means, there’s a probability that users of multiple connections in a household will have to pay equally for their secondary connection, meaning double the charges for the same DTH connection. 


However, TRAI also noted that it comes down to the operator to decide how much will be charged for such a connection where the network capacity fee for the second TV could be significantly reduced. 


How to estimate your monthly bill


The regulator has also announced its own Channel Selector app which can also be accessed through the web. The app gives you an idea of the approximate amount that a DTH provider will charge you and helps you sort out the channels you might want to add to you “A La Carte” before you reach out to your device provider. Users can also print their chosen list of channels to get an idea of the prices that’ll have to pay to their operator. The Channel Selector Application from TRAI can be accessed here.


All of this considered it’s kind of odd that TRAI chose to employ such a regulation to boost the affordability of TV viewing. While the new framework might help those who didn’t feel TV viewing was accessible, several thousand might find it hard and rather comfortable to move to a newer setting, considering the prices of pay channels have escalated due to this ruling. 


As of now, TRAI’s new framework has been accepted by Tata Sky, Dish TV, Airtel DTH, Hathway Cable, Siti Cable and Sun DTH and will be effective from February 1. 

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Kartheek Reddy 04 February 2019 07:09 PM

NCF should have been charged pro-rata basis, appx 1/- per channel. but not just flat 130/- per connection. Ex: For a customer who has subscribed for 130 channels, he will be willing to pay 130/- extra as NCF. For a customer who has subscribed just 20 channels, its fair enough to charge him 20/- for NCF. I wonder, how could this simple logic was missed by TRAI.

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