Cellular operators Authority of India (COAI) called TRAI’s consultation paper on call connect charges as “unfair on incumbent operators”, and questioned the regulator’s urgency in initiating the process of interconnect review, which the association claimed “favors new entrants”. “We are unable to understand what is the hurry. Usually, there is a 2-3 years timeframe (for the review) but it has only been one year,” COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) director general Rajan Mathews told. Also Read - Jio maintains lead in 4G download speed, Vi in upload in May: TRAIAlso Read - TRAI's new SMS regulations will prevent spam, fraudulent messages: Here's how
On Friday, TRAI started the review of interconnection charges — paid by one telecom operator to another for connecting phone calls — against the backdrop of 4G and Internet telephony changing the way consumers communicate. At present, the termination charges for a mobile to mobile local and national long distance call is pegged at 14 paise per minute while the termination charges for international incoming call to wireless and wireline stands at 53 paise per minute.
Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has sought public view on how domestic termination charges should be computed — cost based or Bill and Keep (BAK) — for maximization of consumer welfare, adoption of more efficient technologies and growth of the telecom sector in the country.
In BAK method, each telecom operator bills its own subscribers for outgoing traffic that it sends to other interconnecting network and keeps the revenue received from its subscribers.
“TRAI is trying to introduce ‘Bill and Keep’ method, and the move would mean that new operators would not have to pass on payment to existing operators, while the latter will have to ‘incur costs’,” Mathews said. “It is unfair to the incumbent operators and appears to favor new entrants. This is a misguided effort from TRAI that will help new entrants, at the cost of the incumbent…We are extremely disturbed by this, this further tilts the level playing field,” he alleged.
Stating that no country with calling party pays regime has zero termination charges, he pointed out that the previous move on termination rates for calls involving mobile and landlines had already been challenged in the court.
“The IUC (Interconnection Usage Charges) paper requires us to give answers which are the context of the litigation, and therefore subjudice,” Mathews said.
The TRAI paper also seeks views on how charges would be impacted as telecom operators move to Internet Protocol-based networks. The regulator said that essentially, with the new arrivals viz voice over LTE (VoLTE) and internet telephony, any attempt to set uniform domestic termination charges on cost basis would be a challenging task. The last date for submission of IUC comments is September 5 and that for counter-comments is September 19, 2016.