Are TRAI telecom regulations favoring Reliance Jio?

Reliance Jio 4G OFC network in KeralaThe Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) is indicating that some of the latest consultation papers from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) are supporting new mobile operators such as Reliance Jio Infocomm.

COAI, while sending a press note today, did not name the telecom operator.

“There is deep concern over some of the recent consultation papers introduced by the TRAI. Recent consultation papers and other recent TRAI decisions, point to a pattern of discrimination against the existing mobile operators,” said COAI in a statement on Monday.

COAI said that the recent consultation papers are aimed at supporting the interests of new telecom players. TRAI is not respecting the massive investments made by the existing operators.

The telecom industry body has also welcomed DoT’s initiatives such as harmonization of spectrum, merger and spectrum trading guidelines and efforts to provide government buildings for putting up cellular sites to reduce call drops.

COAI represents GSM telecom operators such as Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Vodafone India, among others.

Rajan S Mathews, director general of COAI, said: “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.”

Some of the issues

India introduced Mobile Termination Charge in 2003. TRAI reviewed the mobile termination charge in 2009 and 2015. TRAI implemented the present Interconnect regime in March 2015. In 2015, TRAI said that the next review would take place in 2017-18. Last week, TRAI issued a new consultation paper.

COAI said TRAI is showing urgency 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. It appears that the exercise is aimed at hurting the financial and operational viability of existing telecom operators.

In another consultation paper, TRAI has sought to regulate the charges for termination of Internet telephony calls without even finalising the routing and numbering framework. TRAI is trying to regulate the price of a service, which is niche and largely unknown.

Incidentally, TRAI did not try 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.

The call drop regulation, which has been set aside by the Supreme Court, was aimed at supporting new telecom operators with empty data networks.

The bias is evident from the fact that TRAI reduced the block size of 2300 MHz band spectrum from 20 MHz to 10 MHz, only to accommodate existing BWA holders who would have otherwise crossed the band specific cap beyond 30 MHz.

Baburajan K
[email protected]