Trai Gets Ear­ful from Tele­com Panel for Penalty Call to In­cum­bent Tel­cos

TC ques­tions Trai’s ba­sis for slap­ping 3k cr fine on Air­tel, Idea & Voda for ‘fail­ing’ to pro­vide POIs to Jio

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Our Bureau

New Delhi: The Tele­com Com­mis­sion has ques­tioned the in­dus­try reg­u­la­tor’s method­ol­ogy and its ba­sis for rec­om­mend­ing cu­mu­la­tive penal­ties of .₹ 3,050 crore on Bharti Air­tel, Idea Cel­lu­lar and Voda­fone for al­legedly “fail­ing” to pro­vide ad­e­quate points of con­nec­tiv­ity to Re­liance Jio In­fo­comm, which led to call fail­ures. It has even asked whether the au­thor­ity has the pow­ers to rec­om­mend such penal­ties.

It has sought around 12 clar­i­fi­ca­tions from the Tele­com Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity of In­dia (Trai) on mul­ti­ple as­pects re­lat­ing to the penalty which the reg­u­la­tor rec­om­mended last year on the in­cum­bent tele­com op­er­a­tors, said peo­ple aware of the mat­ter. “The com­mis­sion has sought clar­i­fi­ca­tions from Trai on mul­ti­ple is­sues and the reg­u­la­tor now has 15 days to re­spond,” a se­nior gov­ern­ment func­tionary told ET. The Tele­com Com­mis­sion (TC), the high­est de­ci­sion-mak­ing body of the tele­com depart­ment, met on Mon­day to dis­cuss the reg­u­la­tor’s penalty rec­om­men­da­tions. The com­mis­sion is headed by the tele­com sec­re­tary and com­prises the Depart­ment of In­dus­trial Pol­icy and Pro­mo­tion sec­re­tary, eco­nomic af­fairs sec­re­tary, Niti Aayog chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer and IT sec­re­tary as mem­bers. Seek­ing Ex­pla­na­tion Asked the reg­u­la­tor if it even pos­sesses the pow­ers to rec­om­mend a penalty

Asked Trai why it com­puted con­ges­tion on a daily ba­sis in­stead of monthly ba­sis

Sought to know from when did Trai count the pe­riod of 90 days, within which in­cum­bents are obliged to pro­vide re­quired points of in­ter­con­nec­tion

TC has asked Trai if it even pos­sesses pow­ers un­der the Trai Act to rec­om­mend such penal­ties

Asked rea­sons for ex­am­in­ing vi­o­la­tions un­der li­cence agree­ment and not draft in­ter-con­nect agree­ment

Among the queries, the com­mis­sion has asked the reg­u­la­tor if it even pos­sesses pow­ers un­der the Trai Act to rec­om­mend such penal­ties. The com­mis­sion also ex­am­ined the Depart­ment of Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tion’s in­ter­nal re­port analysing the reg­u­la­tor’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to one of the per­sons aware of the mat­ter, “Sec­tion 11(I) (a) of the Trai Act em­pow­ers the reg­u­la­tor to can­cel per­mits of tele­com op­er­a­tors. It also em­pow­ers the reg­u­la­tor to levy fi­nan­cial dis­in­cen­tives for fail­ing to meet its stan­dards. How­ever, it doesn’t em­power the reg­u­la­tor to rec­om­mend penal­ties. Hence, the com­mis­sion has sought clar­i­fi­ca­tion from the reg­u­la­tor.” The com­mis­sion has also sought to know whether the in­cum­bent op­er­a­tors were given a to­tal pe­riod of 90 days from the time Jio had sought points of in­ter­con­nect. “The com­mis­sion has sought to know from when did the reg­u­la­tor count the pe­riod of 90 days, within which the in­cum­bents are obliged to pro­vide the re­quired points of in­ter­con­nect,” the of­fi­cial said.

Fur­ther, the com­mis­sion has quizzed the reg­u­la­tor on its method­ol­ogy for cal­cu­lat­ing the con­ges­tion on Jio’s net­work. “The cri­te­ria that the con­ges­tion should be less than 0.5% says the pe­riod for com­put­ing this has to be a month. So how come the reg­u­la­tor based its as­sess­ment on a daily com­pu­ta­tion?” said one of the per­sons cited above.

‘WHY LI­CENCE AGREE­MENT?’

The com­mis­sion has also sought clar­ity from the reg­u­la­tor on why Trai ex­am­ined vi­o­la­tions by the in­cum­bents and rec­om­mended penal­ties on the ba­sis of li­cence agree­ments, since the in- ter­con­nect us­age charge is a com­mer­cial agree­ment be­tween par­ties based on the draft IUC agree­ment of the Trai.

“Shouldn’t the ex­am­i­na­tions by the reg­u­la­tor have been based on the ba­sis of the draft in­ter­con­nect us­age charges (IUC) agree­ment rather than the li­cence agree­ment?” said the of­fi­cial. The reg­u­la­tor had rec­om­mended penal­ties of .₹ 1,050 crore each on Air­tel and Voda­fone In­dia and .₹ 950 crore on Idea Cel­lu­lar as it found that th­ese tel­cos weren’t pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate points of in­ter­con­nect to Re­liance Jio last year in Oc­to­ber. Jio had com­plained then that over 75% calls on its net­work were fail­ing as in­cum­bents tried to sab­o­tage its en­try into tele­com.

While the depart­ment de­lib­er­ates on the mat­ter, Voda­fone has filed a pe­ti­tion against the rec­om­mended penalty in the Delhi High Court while Air­tel and Idea Cel­lu­lar have chal­lenged Trai’s de­ci­sion to per­mit Jio to of­fer free voice and data ser­vices till March at the Tele­com Dis­putes Settlement and Ap­pel­late Tri­bunal.

Be­sides this, the Tele­com Com­mis­sion has ap­proved the de­mand of Rs 2,834 crore to be raised from nine tele­com op­er­a­tors in­clud­ing MTS, Tata Te­le­ser­vices, Video­con, STEL, Idea Cel­lu­lar and Uni­nor (now Te­lenor), which pro­vided ser­vices after Fe­bru­ary 2012, when the Supreme Court can­celled their li­cences, and till the time they bought fresh per­mits after buy­ing spec­trum in the sub­se­quent auc­tion.

Panel has also sought to know whether the in­cum­bent op­er­a­tors were given a to­tal pe­riod of 90 days from the time Jio had sought PoIs

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