COAI to wait for clar­ity on new op­er­a­tors

The Financial Express - - ECONOMY - Fe Bureau

New Delhi, Aug 12: Af­ter a week of hec­tic lob­by­ing against Re­liance Jio In­fo­comm and the re­cent moves of the Tele­com Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity of In­dia, in­dus­try body Cellular Op­er­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia (COAI) on Fri­day said it would wait for clar­ity on the pa­ram­e­ters, in­clud­ing time pe­riod, sub­scribers and us­age for test ser­vices by new op­er­a­tors from the de­part­ment of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions.

“It’s time an um­pire steps in and says it is an LBW or not,” Ra­jan S Mathews, di­rec­tor gen­eral of COAI said tak­ing anal­ogy from the game of cricket to the cur­rent reg­u­la­tory im­passe in the tele­com sec­tor. “The bal­ance of trade is not in our favour".

Mathews com­ments have come af­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­is­ter Manoj Sinha said ear­lier in the day that the min­istry did not dis­crim­i­nate be­tween in­cum­bents and new en­trants in the sec­tor. Sinha and DoT sec­re­tary JS Deepak met with chief ex­ec­u­tives of tele­com op­er­a­tors, in­clud­ing Bharti Air­tel, Voda­fone In­dia, and Idea Cellular along with COAI of­fi­cials to try and re­solve the cur­rent im­passe.

COAI among many con­cerns al­leges that Re­liance Jio is flout­ing rules by of­fer­ing test ser­vices while it is ac­tu­ally pro­vid­ing full fledged ser­vices, dump­ing traf­fic on net­works of in­cum­bents.

Re­liance Jio has re­futed the al­le­ga­tions. The tele­com lobby had also writ­ten to the DoT sec­re­tary on the is­sue. One of the ma­jor con­cerns is the latest con­sul­ta­tion pa­per on in­ter­con­nect us­age charges, or the fee that each op­er­a­tor pays to an­other, for con­nect­ing calls be­tween two sub­scribers. Trai has sought views on re­view­ing the charges, and if re­duced or made nil, that would hurt the in­cum­bents as they con­trol more than 60% of the 1 bil­lion mo­bile phone users the coun­try has, which means they will have to ter­mi­nate more in­com­ing calls with­out charg­ing a fee.

COAI's Mathews main­tained that the cur­rent se­ries of con­sul­ta­tions, es­pe­cially the tim­ing of the IUC pa­per, which came a day ahead of the cru­cial spec­trum auc­tions, hurt the op­er­a­tors’ plans for bid­ding as it aims to take away a ma­jor chunk of their rev­enue. The four top op­er­a­tors over­all get IUC of about R17,000-R18,000 crore, which in net ter ms is about R8,000 crore, he said.

On Fri­day, Sinha said that the com­mu­ni­ca­tions min­istry will seek clar­ity from Trai on how long can Re­liance Jio of­fer trial/test ser­vices and the pro­to­col in test­ing. He did not de­fine a time­frame for send­ing queries to Trai.

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