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Recent TRAI consultations seem ‘discriminatory’: COAI

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Some of the recent consultation paper issued by TRAI “seems to have been crafted and timed” to facilitate interests of new players in the telecom industry, and seems to disregard “massive investments” made my existing players, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), a lobby body comprising largely of India’s GSM operators, said in a statement.

Not only consultation papers, other recent TRAI directions “point to a pattern of discrimination against mobile operators”, the COAI added. It points out to some specific consultations and directions issued by TRAI; it said these papers and direction “either promote or discriminate between existing and new players…the consultations papers appear to be distorting the level-playing field…and are regressive in nature.”

On Cellular termination charges for VoIP

In a consultation released last week, TRAI asked whether the Calling-Party-Pays (CPP), applicable to telecom services, should continue for VoIP/VoLTE services as well. This was asked in context of Whatsapp and Skype calls, wherein both the users receiving and making the call already pay for data usage. The regulator also pointed out that several telcos have built networks using 4G LTE standards, while few were looking to host voice calls entirely on VoLTE technology.

However, the COAI refers to VoIP and Internet Telephony services as “niche and largely unknown”, while stating that TRAI is looking to regulate these without setting the routing and numbering framework.

 “The Industry is unable to comprehend this urgency when contrasted with the fact that TRAI itself has chosen not to regulate the prices of other niche services such as HD channels, Toll Free Services, International Calling Cards etc, which either continue to be on forbearance for several years till they mature, or have failed to take off,” added COAI in the statement.

Last year, while revising termination charges, TRAI said that the next review would take place in 2017-18, according to COAI. But the regulator issued the consultation before this timeline and this according to the lobby body “hurts financial and operational viability of existing operators, as fixing of termination charges is a matter of sub-judice in various courts of law.”

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On call drop regulations

Last week, TRAI proposed fining telecom operators based on the degree of non-compliance to Quality of Service (QoS) standards, or “on the basis of how bad” a telco performed rather than just fining them for an instance of non-compliance. It also suggested BTS-wise, district-wise or locality level monitoring of QoS standards, so that end consumers can take informed decisions, after reviewing quality of service provided by a telco in their locality.

Note that this consultation was issued after the Supreme Court struck down TRAI’s direction of Re 1 per call drop as compensation for consumers, effectively leaving end consumer without any reimbursement for bad quality service.

However, COAI has termed the ‘Re 1 per call drop’ for compensation as “a draconian measure” meant to “foster perceptions” on the call drop issue. If the compensation structure would have come in place, it would have benefit existing mobile operators, “in order to perhaps favor new players with empty data networks,” added the lobby body.

On setting block sizes for 2300 MHz spectrum

The lobby association further pointed out to TRAI’s decision to reduce block sizes of the 2300MHz band spectrum from 20 MHz to 10 MHZ as “unprecedented” and ‘biased’. COAI alleged that this move was meant to facilitate existing BWA spectrum holders who otherwise would have acquired spectrum beyond the band’s cap of 30MHz.

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Image Credits: Flickr user Matt Reinbold under CC BY-SA 2.0

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