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TRAI Tells DTH Operators To Get Real, Report Only Active Subscriber Base

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has asked DTH players to report only active subscribers and not count temporarily suspended subscribers, as they used to earlier.

Until March 2019, DTH operators, while reporting their subscriber base, included subscribers whose connections had been temporarily suspended for up to 120 days. The figure also included the total registered subscriber from the date the operator started operations.

“To bring complete transparency, for the first time, the information related to active subscribers in a month (Monthly Subscription Report) is (being) collected by TRAI from DTH operators. This figure was never collected earlier,” Trai Secretary SK Gupta told BusinessLine.

Under the earlier system, DTH operators reported 72.44 million subscribers at the end of March 2019. Under the new system, DTH services had an average active subscriber base of 54.26 million in the quarter ended June 30. The drop had nothing to do with the change in TV channel pricing, Gupta said, and added that since the active subscriber base was being collected for the first time, no direct comparison is possible.

“The average active subscriber base is arrived by averaging the active subscriber base for a month (as on 7th day, 14th day, 21st day, and 28th day of the month). However, for the subscriber base published for the quarter ended March 2019, DTH operators included temporarily suspended subscribers who had have not been inactive for more than 120 days,” Gupta said.

Trai had introduced a a similar rule in the telecom sector when mobile operators were reporting inflated numbers to get more spectrum. Until 2010, spectrum was allocated on a subscriber-linked criterion, which incentivised them to inflate numbers.

Gupta said that the total DTH subscriber base as on June 2019 is 68.92 million, counting users who had temporarily suspended service for not more than 90 days.

Meanwhile, the cable TV operators’ industry body, the All India Digital Cable Federation, and individual subscribers claim the new tariff regime has led to a steep rise in monthly bills.

Dhiraj Wala, a DTH subscriber, wrote to TRAI saying that after the implementation of TRAI’s order, the subscription cost had increased by 100-150 per month per subscriber. Given the 20 crore cable/DTH subscriber base, that adds up to Rs. 2,000-3,000 crore per month, he added.

A KPMG report in August pointed out towards a decline of 12-15 million subscribers in the April-June quarter.  “While the C&S (cable and satellite) universe was reported to have expanded to 197 million households by end of 2018 with digital cable gaining the most, there was an erosion, there was an erosion in the active subscriber base in the last quarter of nearly 12-15 million households in the overall C&S household base,” the report said.

The KPMG report points to potential reason of this being non-renewal of subscriptions and transition of subscribers to video streaming platforms as they faced higher cable bills.―The Hindu Business Line

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