India’s telecom regulator TRAI is seeking comments from telcos and stakeholders for reviewing existing regulation regarding interconnection between telecom service providers. When two telcos fail to mutually negotiate the terms and conditions of interconnection, ‘should a standardized interconnect agreement be made mandatory?’ the regulator asked in a consultation paper (pdf) titled “Review of the Regulatory Framework for Interconnection” It also suggests financial disincentives or penalties to telcos in case they fail to arrive into an interconnection agreement within a stipulated time-frame, or in case they violate interconnection-related clauses in their license. TRAI also looks into creating a “coordination committee” to facilitate interconnection agreements between telcos. The consultation comes in the light of the recent interconnection issues between new entrant Jio and incumbents, and with TRAI proposing a Rs 3050 crore penalty for operators like Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea for violating license norms regarding interconnection witn new entrant Reliance Jio. Current regulations regarding interconnection All interconnection agreements between telcos are currently finalized based on mutual negotiations. A Reference Interconnection Offer (RIO) has also been prescribed by the regulator as a standard reference interconnection agreement between an operator who commands a large market share identified as a Significant Market Power (SMP) and a new/existing operator. Any operator identified as an SMP is required to offer an RIO to other telcos; and both parties will later negotiate the final terms. In addition to this, several clauses in the Unified License require telcos to provide adequate interconnection and deploy sufficient Points of Interconnection to “enable…
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