TRAI rejects telecom industry body COAI's demand for open house on interconnection charges

Telecom operators levy interconnection charge (IUC) on incoming calls from the network of other operator.

Telecom regulator TRAI today rejected industry body COAIs demand for another round of discussion before implementing changes in the existing rules on mobile call interconnection charges. "I dont think that is required now because we think we have had extensive consultation process," TRAI Chairman R S Sharma told reporters in response to query on COAIs demand.

The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had requested TRAI to share model that it used to levy existing mobile call termination charges and discuss the model that it decides to use for making changes in present norms before implementing it.

In a communication to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, COAI has alleged that TRAI is "acting in undue haste to conclude the review of IUC (interconnection usage charges)". However, the industry body did not include views of Reliance Jio and Aircel in the letter. BSNL, MTNL, Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices are not the member of COAI. Telecom operators levy interconnection charge (IUC) on incoming calls from the network of other operator. These charges are passed on to mobile subscribers by service providers.

TRAI fixes IUC that comprises several components. Charges levied for interconnecting mobile calls dominate the IUC issue. A telecom operator charges 14 paise per minute for every incoming mobile call that it receives from other operators network. Incumbent operators -- Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular -- have sought doubling of mobile termination charge (MTC), a part of IUC, saying that terminating incoming calls on their networks costs 30-35 paise per minute.

While Reliance Jio, Reliance Communications, Aircel, MTNL have request abolition of mobile termination charges. Sharma said that telecom operators requested TRAI to conduct a workshop before open house discussion which he agreed and it was organised on July 18. "Normally, we complete work on a consultation paper in six months but for this consultation we are about to celebrate anniversary," Sharma said.

COAI Director General RS Mathews said operator should be given opportunity to review the model that TRAI plans to implement. "The question of haste is do with ability of operators to review the model which is fundamental and foundational to determining whether it (IUC) is 2 paise, half paise or 36 paise. How do you come to conclusion what that is? This is what we are trying to emphasise that if you want to conclude IUC review properly then give appropriate time frame to operators," Mathews said.

A Reliance Jio representative at the event said that demand for repeated discussions by COAI is a tactics to delay review of IUC from which incumbents are benefitting. The consultation paper was issued in August last year following a letter written by COAI objecting over application based call service announced by state-run telecom firm BSNL. BSNL launched calling app with concept to make even ISD call charges at par with calls made within India. However, due to objection raised by COAI the app service has been put on hold.

Disclaimer: Reliance Jio is owned by Reliance Industries, who also own Network18, the publisher of Firstpost and Tech2.

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