COAI to wait for clarity on new operators
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.