MTNL IPTV services encounter legal hurdles

24 Oct 2006

(The Economic Times via NewsEdge) IPTV services launched by the government-owned Mahanagar Telephone Nigam (MTNL) amid much fanfare in Mumbai and Delhi are illegal according to the Cable Televisions Networks (Regulations) Act.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has asked the ministry of information and broadcasting to take a legal opinion on the issue.

'We have looked into the legal aspects of IPTV services and we are requesting concerned ministries to get legal opinion,' said Trai chairman Nripendra Misra.

Section 4(a) of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Bill 2002 says: 'Programs of basic service tier shall be receivable by any subscriber on the receiver set of a type existing immediately before the commencement of the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act 2002 without any addressable system attached with such receiver set in any manner."

Here, addressable systems basically mean set-top boxes and basic tier services mean free-to-air channels. IPTV services require set-top boxes. Therefore, IPTV services cannot be offered under the Cable Television Networks (Regulations) Act.

The Unified Access Service License (UASL) allows a company to offer triple-play services. However, MTNL does not have UASL license, only a cable TV license to offer IPTV services.

In 2002, IPTV was not offered commercially anywhere in the world.

'For survival of MTNL's fixed-line business, it is essential to provide value-added services to the customers. Broadband was the first logical step. IPTV is the next step and more value-added services will be available through this vehicle. The basic idea is to give full satisfaction to the customers,' said RSP Sinha, MTNL chair and managing director.

© 2006 The Economic Times

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