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DTH News : DTH operators against introduction of KYC norms, location-based services for STBs
MUMBAI: Direct to home (DTH) operators have told the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that there is no need to introduce additional know your customer (KYC) norms as it will full financial burden on the DTH players.

In their submission to the TRAI, the DTH operators also stated that the ministry of information and broadcasting’s (MIB) objective of curbing illegal smuggling of set top boxes (STBs) will not be met imposing additional KYC norms.

In July, the TRAI had issued a consultation paper on ‘KYC of DTH Set Top Boxes’ after receiving a reference from MIB dated 27th December 2018. The ministry had requested the regulator to give its recommendations on the desirability or otherwise of KYC for STBs in DTH services and then the process for the same.

In the letter, the MIB had also mentioned applying certain safeguards for restricting smuggling of DTH equipment illegally to other countries.

In their comments, DTH operators Dish TV, Tata Sky, and Bharti Telemedia have stated that they already follow basis KYC norms and there is no requirement for additional KYC norms for an industry like DTH where no risks are involved.

Tata Sky submitted that DTH Operators, at the time of new customer acquisition, are getting the Customer Application Form (CAF) filled up, which captures the Name, Address, Contact Number and various other details. This CAF process is already mandated within the Authority’s QoS Regulations, 2017. Thereafter, the STB is installed at the premises of the customer by the operator. Therefore, the KYC process is already being followed by the operators.

It further stated that the judgement of the Supreme Court of India disallows the Aadhaar verification process for the telecom sector. Television sector being a non-critical sector, it is highly unlikely that Aadhaar verification can be introduced, it added.

The DTH operator also averred that collecting Proof of Identity (PoI) and Proof of Address (PoA) documents, as an alternative to Aadhaar, will add to the inconvenience and cost of approximately 100 million subscribers (includes Pvt. DTH and DD Free Dish) and potentially another 100 million future subscribers. Conducting such a massive exercise for weeding out a minuscule set of smuggled boxes would be an unfair burden for all stakeholders, Tata Sky said in its submission.

Furthermore, Tata Sky said that the concern raised by MIB of restricting the smuggling of DTH equipment illegally to other countries does not get addressed by the KYC process. “Therefore, we strongly urge the Authority to continue with the existing Regulations and not add or modify the process that would require us to collect PoI/ PoA documents,” it stated.

Bharti Telemedia noted that broadcasting of channels through DTH involves unidirectional communication only i.e. broadcast through Satellites and does not involve any inherent risk or misuse by the customers. In view of the same, introducing any additional measures for KYC other than what is being currently followed, would only aggravate the financial stress on the industry and will consequently lead to higher prices for the consumer, without yielding any benefits.

The DTH operator submitted that the need of the hour is to further ease the process of onboarding of the customers and to make it more seamless with Digitization. In line with this objective, the Industry is working towards the use of electronic Customer Application Form (e-CAF) as per TRAI’s direction.

“In the proposed e-CAF process, which shall replace the current CAF Process, the Engineer will visit the customer’s place for installation and will update the customer details and take the digital signature of the customer on a digital form in the e-CAF application on the phone. The Digital CAF Form will then be auto-saved in a secured server location which can be retrieved anytime,” Bharti Telemedia stated.

On the issue of incorporating location-based services (LBS) in the DTH STBs to track its location, Tata Sky submitted that developing and deploying STBs fitted with an LBS solution would make the box expensive and would add to the cost borne by the subscriber. Also, there would be several cases of non-receipt of signals on account of equipment malfunction or other reasons and not necessarily due to the STB having been smuggled out.

“Presuming that the operator develops such a solution and report to the government all incidences of displaced STBs, would the government prosecute such individuals for engaging in such an activity and take penal action?” Tata Sky questioned.

Incorporating LBS would also lead to privacy concerns and threatens to snowball into a major controversy like the MIB proposal to installing chips in STBs to capture the viewing pattern of consumers. “This carries much more serious concerns than the issue of viewing behavior and has the potential of snowballing into a major controversy. It is our humble request that we should avoid going down this path,” Tata Sky said.

Bharti Telemedia submitted that there is no need to introduce the LBS requirement for the DTH STBs. It also stated that there is no such implementation of LBS for DTH services anywhere in the world. Moreover, the existing DTH STB works on a one-way communication system. There is no provision for a return path and no solutions available with the currently available STBs. If any such implementation has to be done, it will not only add costs per STB but will also involve development costs as this solution will have to be developed specifically for the Indian Market.

However, the DTH operator suggested that to mitigate the smuggling of STBs to the other countries, it is recommended to incorporate measures at the border/customs, where this issue can be dealt with effectively. “Moreover, effective measures should be taken by the affected countries to control the use of smuggled set-top boxes in their jurisdictions. We understand that some of these countries are already implementing such measures. It will also raise apprehensions of the customers about the DTH Services raising privacy concerns and thus, will not be received well by them.”

In its response, Dish TV stated that there is neither any need nor any valid occasion for prescription of KYC of DTH STBs.

Dish TV also opposed the suggestion of LBS. It reasoned that the entire process of installation is closely monitored by the company. It further noted that the CPEs are a proprietary product and are not sold in the open market and therefore there is no scope of any activation of any STB at an alternate premise vis-à-vis the address captured in the CAF/CRM.

Further, there are adequate checks and safeguards are already in place to ensure physical address verification during installation. Therefore, the process of verification is adequately ensured and there is no need for adding any more steps and processes.

“However, the periodic physical premise verification to account for the already installed STB’s is not feasible as the same would entail a huge of the manpower to be deployed in the market which would require a huge amount to be spent by the DTH operators. Under the current competitive scenario where DTH operators are already incurring a huge cost with long ROI period, the imposition of any additional cost would only be detrimental to the entire industry,” Dish TV said in its submission.

For the purpose of the KYC verification process, any Government ID provide by the subscriber or any mobile number provided by the subscribers to the DTH operators as a registered mobile number, for the reason that the same is already KYC verified by the telecom operators, should be treated as sufficient enough for fulfillment of KYC process by the DTH operators, the DTH operator contended.

Tata Sky stated that the issue of smuggled STBs is not limited to private DTH operators alone. Any regulation or any mandate that TRAI and/or MIB may be proposing should cover the DD Free Dish platform as well.

Airtel Digital HD Recorder / Kerala Vision Digital TV
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