The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) expressed its concern over Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) which introduced recent consultation papers. It shows that TRAI decision is point to a pattern of discrimination against the existing mobile operators.
COAI added that some papers have been crafted and timed to serve the interests of new players, with complete disregard for the massive investments made by the existing operators. COAI also appreciates that TRAI would welcome new entrants to the sector, this must not extend to adapting policy measures to either promote or discriminate between existing and new players.
TRAI along with the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has played a stellar role in formulating a progressive regulatory environment that has enabled the growth of telecom services in India and empowered a billion Indians with the benefits of telephony according to COAI. DOT has taken some recent initiatives like harmonization of spectrum, merger and spectrum trading guidelines and efforts to provide government buildings for putting up sites have been supportive of the Industry challenges, while the operators on their part remain fully committed to the government’s Digital India vision.
TRAI have left the Industry worried as some of the recent decisions and policy consultations undertaken and appears to be distorting the level-playing field within the sector and are regressive in nature.
Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI, said,
“A clear, stable and predictable policy environment is the cornerstone of any regulatory regime that fosters industry growth and customer services. Over the past few months, the industry has seen an unprecedented deluge of discussion papers from TRAI. Some of the consultation papers appear to be heavily loaded in favour of new players and point towards a bias against the existing operators. We hope that TRAI will take a more balanced view on issues impacting the entire industry and ensure a level-playing field.”
Issues highlighted by the Industry –
Mobile Termination Charge It was introduced in 2003 and acknowledge by TRAI and DoT as the single-most determinant factor of rural rollouts over the years. It was reviewed thereafter in 2009 and 2015. The present Interconnect regime was implemented by TRAI in March 2015 and it was clearly stated by TRAI itself in 2015 that the next review would take place in 2017-18. It is, therefore, surprising to see the urgency displayed by TRAI in this matter, with the consultation process initiated at such an early date and despite the fact that the matter is sub-judice in various courts of law.
Termination of Internet Telephony calls TRAI has sought to regulate the charges for without even finalising the routing and numbering framework. TRAI is trying to regulate the price of a service, which is niche and largely unknown. 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.
Call drop regulation which has been finally set aside by the Hon’ble Supreme Court, far from working to address the quality issue, was a draconian measure built to financially penalize and foster perceptions, which discredit existing mobile operators in order to perhaps favour new players with empty data networks.
Block size of 2300 MHz band spectrum TRAI in an unprecedented move reduced the from 20 MHz to 10 MHz, only to accommodate existing BWA holders who would have otherwise crossed the band specific cap beyond 30 MHz.
The industry believes such an increasing disenfranchisement of existing operators through these regulatory decisions, bodes ill for investments, industry growth, and customer services and upsets the well established level-playing field paradigm – the cornerstone for maintaining a healthy and thriving competitive structure.
The industry is also of the view that such an inconsistent policy framework will hurt investor sentiment. This may further impact the rollout of networks, especially in rural areas,which would not be in the long-term interest of consumers.
COAI urges the Government and TRAI to address and resolve its concerns on an urgent basis.