Basic telecom operators to protest interconnect rule

By : |January 30, 2003 0

NEW DELHI: The private basic telecom operators (BTO) have protested that there is no level playing field vis-a-vis the cellular industry. Although TRAI announced the IUC regime and addressed the concerns of the cellular industry, there has been no attempt to resolve some issues faced by the basic service operators. The issues raised by the operators included high upfront payment in license fee including bank guarantees, stringent roll out obligations, strict rationing of spectrum for WLL, obligation to provide below the cost services and no remedy for the continuing bypass of intra-circle long distance traffic by cellular operators.

According to the BTOs, WLL was granted as part of their license with the objective of raising tele-density through affordable limited mobile services. The IUC regime has, however, resulted in pushing up costs for the end customer. Operators did not specify whether the cost would be absorbed by the sector or be pushed on to the consumer immediately. But it was certain that at some point in time, the cost had to be passed on to the consumer.

The BTOs have therefore demanded that under the current circumstances, the roll out obligation applicable for WLL services should be removed or similar obligations be imposed on the cellular industry.

BSO took pains to point out that the sector has paid huge upfront costs to the tune of Rs 768 crore after the migration to NTP 99 and Rs 1,600 crore as license fee for two years before NTP ’99. “The point is that Rs 1600 crore was shelled out by six BTOs only as against Rs 7,300 crore of license fee shelled out by 42 cellular operators over a four year period,” said S Ramakrishnan, MD, Tata Teleservices, who has newly been elected the President of the Association.

BTOs argue that they are allocated 2.5 Mhz of spectrum after establishing point of presence (PoP) in the SDCA despite paying huge bank guarantees. While cellular operators are allocated a larger chunk of spectrum without any such conditions. "Regulator has allowed the backdoor entry of CPP or calling party pays by introducing mobile termination charge (MTC)” said SC Khanna, Secretary General of ABTO.

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