NEW DELHI: Even as much of the airwaves were occupied with news of big bang budget announcements, Friday saw the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) new tariff system for television services quietly roll into place. The rollout was enabled by a last minute order from the Calcutta High Court vacating its stay on the new system on Thursday.
So far, the implementation seems to have been effected without disruption to direct-to-home (DTH) and cable TV services. TRAI on Thursday had put out a statement saying that all service providers had confirmed readiness to migrate to the new framework on time. The regulator said it had instructed distribution service providers to avoid any inconvenience, even to those who are yet to choose their plans under the new system. “The Distribution Service Providers must continue to make all efforts to obtain consumer choice through various modes...,” it said.
As of Sunday, no disruptions to consumer services were reported, with industry experts stating that this was due to informal assurances given by the regulator to give service providers seven to eight days to migrate their customers to the new system. Reports also say that TRAI has let subscribers who have taken long term plans to continue with them until they run out.
“I don’t see major disruptions for the first week. No one really wants to disrupt service. The service providers are just concerned about how broadcasters will bill them for the same period..,” said Dinyar Contractor, executive director, Satellite & Cable TV Magazine. The primary concern of most cable operators and distribution service providers continues to be revenue under the new system. While distributors have no choice but to charge customers old rates until they migrate, there are concerns broadcasters might begin charging them under the new tariff system, where rates could be much higher.
Another matter of concern was the default revenue sharing formula under the new system, which is what prompted several groups of cable operators to approach the high courts in Mumbai and Kolkata. While the Calcutta High Court had initially granted a stay on the implementation on Wednesday, TRAI’s appeal the following day saw the court deciding to vacate it.
“It is only when MSO(s) and LCO(s) are unable to agree, on negotiation between themselves, Schedule VI kicks in requiring prescribed revenue sharing ratio and responsibilities regarding performance of functions of said service,” TRAI had told the court.
Concerns over revenue
The primary concern of most cable operators and distribution service providers continues to be revenue under the new system. While distributors have no choice but to charge customers old rates until they migrate, there are concerns broadcasters might begin charging them under the new tariff system, where rates could be much higher.