TRAI's new rules for DTH, cable service go live from 1 Feb: All you need to know

You will have the choice to customise your selection of channel every month.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is scheduled to streamline cable TV and Direct-to-Home (DTH) subscriptions starting 1 February. These new rules are aimed to give users the freedom to select and pay only for the channels they wish to view, in turn making the entire experience more customised and affordable.

As of now, cable operators and DTH service providers offer these pre-designed bouquets of channels, wherein a user either pays for a bunch of channels that they don't watch or they simply don't get the channel they want. Basically, we're shelling out a lot of extra bucks for nothing.

What changes with the new rules?

With the implementation of the new guidelines for cable and DTH from 1 February, you will have the freedom to pick and chose the channels you want from an a la carté list – which means that you can pick only the channels you want, as well as from a bouquet – which will have a more traditional combination of channels – for a fixed price.

All DTH operators and cable service providers will have to let consumers choose individual channels and create custom channel packages. However, the option for DTH operator-curated channel packs will still exist.

Consequently, with the options for customisation available, you may end up seeing reduced bills.

Representational Image.

Representational Image.

How will the channels be priced now?

To begin with, you will need to have in place what is known as a channel base pack which will include 100 Free-To-Air (FTA) channels. Do note that all 25 Doordarshan channels will be included in the base pack as a mandatory addition.

Standard definition (SD) channels for cable will be provided for a basic price of Rs 100. The base price for DTH will cost a maximum of Rs 130 plus taxes. Service providers though will have the option of pricing these base packs lower as well (but not higher).

Of course, the prices for Standard Definition (SD) channels will be lower than those of High Definition (HD) channels. However, both SD and HD channels can be added to the base pack. The prices for paid channels will be added over the price of the base pack.

Now, if you want an a la carté pack, you will be paying for your chosen channels over the basic pack. So basically, in case of DTH you will be paying Rs 130 plus the price of the channels you want. The channels will be priced at a maximum of Rs 19. Additionally, on each of these channels, you will also be paying 18 percent of GST.

Further, quite oddly, if you add an HD channel into your base pack instead of an SD channel, then one channel will be counted as two channels instead.

Notably, if you are planning to go for the free-to-air channels in the base pack, you will still have to pay a Network Capacity Fee for the base pack plus the taxes. A maximum sum of approximately Rs 154 (Rs 130 plus taxes) will be required for choosing all FTA channels.

For those who want more than these 100 channels, they will have the option of choosing them in bouquets of 25 channels at an extra cost of Rs 20, which is the network capacity fee. This means that if you add 25 more channels to your list of 100, then your network capacity fee will be Rs 130+20, plus the MRP of all paid channels which you have chosen in this list.

At any time, you will be able to select or deselect channels as per your wish. This is similar to a shopping cart in your online shopping experience.

TRAI says that you will be able to view the maximum retail price (MRP) of a channel on an a la carté basis in the Electronic Programe Guide (EPG) or in the settings menu of televisions.

Who do I get in touch with for choosing the packs?

For customising your channels, you need to contact your DTH operators before 31 January to continue to get uninterrupted service and to avoid any last-minute inconvenience.

How do I choose the channels?

Now that you know all about how to put these channels together, to help you implement and understand the new regulations, TRAI has launched a tool for DTH users and service providers that lets you preview your new subscription packs and prices.

To use the tool, head here. You will see a page with the basic information of what the change in guidelines will be. Scroll down and click on Get Started to, well... get started on the tool.

Screenshot from the TRAI website.

Screenshot from the TRAI website.

Here, you will be asked to add in your name, which is optional. You can skip this part or add your name and hit Continue. Now, you will be asked to add your State or UT and in step 3 you will be asked to select languages as per the ones spoken in the state you've chosen. Choose your language and hit next.

You will then be asked to select the categories of channels you want to pick. You can select, some or all of these categories.

And finally, you choose if you want HD or SD channels. Hit next, and this is when the real process begins.

But before anything else, note that at any time you can check your selected channels by clicking on “View Selection”. Further, you may also automatically optimise the selection to reduce cost (where possible). The system may offer you more channels at a reduced or similar price. You also have a right to change the solution every month and you can subscribe to an additional channel at any time.

Now, this tool is just for you to understand the cost of the channels and what your pack should look like, you will still need to get in touch with your service provider to activate this.

Screenshot from the TRAI website.

Screenshot from the TRAI website.

When your screen looks like this screenshot above, you can select the channels you want, and once you have customised your pack, you will see the cost of it on the top blue bar on the right corner. In this screenshot, I did not add any channels so the base pack with the 25 pre-installed channels costs me Rs 153.4. After I added 10 more HD channels to it, my selection was counted as 45 (because one HD channel is counted as two channels), and the total cost of the package went up to Rs 469.64. See the screenshot below for reference:

Screenshot from the TRAI website.

Screenshot from the TRAI website.

In this transition, what happens in case of disruption of services?

You still have two days to go for getting your channels sorted. Ideally, if you get this done by 31 January, your transition to the new rules will be smooth, but in case you fail to do it for some reason and face disruption in the channels you have been watching since before the guideline came into place, you can get it touch with your service provider, and if they fail to resolve any issue within a period of 72 hours from the time of the complaint, you won't have to pay any amount for the fix.

Is this a win-win situation or what?

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