Proposes to keep it out of Cable TV Act

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New proposal

Will allow

Bharti Airtel and Reliance to offer IPTV using their broadband

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television broadcasters

New Delhi, June 6

In a significant move, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has mooted a proposal to keep Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) out of the purview of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act 1995 and instead make it part of the existing telecom licence norms. The proposal will mean that telecom operators such as Bharti Airtel and Reliance Communications will be free to offer IPTV using their broadband network.

The proposal comes as a blow to broadcasters who have been demanding to keep IPTV as part of the laws governing Cable TV. IPTV is a system where a digital television service is delivered over a broadband connection instead of the traditional way of transmitting through a cable network. Users will also get new services such as video on demand where they can watch their favourite movies for a fee. TRAI pointed out that IPTV services cannot be governed by the Cable TV laws as it will violate some of the provision of the Act. For instance, use of different protocols by different companies and lack of standardisation for IPTV services violates the requirement about use of equipment conforming to Indian standards.

IPTV service

"The problems pointed are primarily on account of the fact that when the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 was prepared, the IPTV service was not even conceived. Therefore, the Act is primarily aimed at regulation of conventional cable TV systems. Application of this Act to IPTV services leads to problems. The unified access service licence (UASL) agreement permits the licensees (telecom operators) to provide broadband services including triple play i.e. voice, video and data. Thus, they are authorised to offer IPTV services over their networks," TRAI said.

Amending definition

Therefore, TRAI has proposed to amend the definition of `cable services' under the Cable TV Act to exclude video services offered under unified access licence. It has also sought to amend the UASL licence to include retransmission of any broadcast television signals within the definition of video services. TRAI also proposed to make the telecom operators responsible for compliance with all the Codes governing programmes and advertisements.

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(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated June 7, 2006)
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