Further pressure on Indian regulators

Further pressure in Indian regulators

As India’s Department of Telecom (DoT) considers proposals that could ease the stress on operators of spectrum auction payments, Reliance Jio is again arguing against a call connect charges review.

Indian press reports indicate that the DoT is likely to discuss with the Department of Financial Services (DFS) an industry proposal for a two-year moratorium on spectrum auction payments, with it is hoped, support from public sector banks.

Two of the three main operators, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, have been insisting that present spectrum prices, licence fees and spectrum usage charges were likely to be unsustainable, and ministers have indicated that they are considering concessions.

In any case, with the planned deferral of the 5G auctions from before the end of this calendar year to before the end of the financial year there may be time to adjust the rules.

But that’s not the only regulatory issue the Indian government is dealing with.

Reliance Jio has launched yet another attack on Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) policy, suggesting that a review of call connect charges sabotages the prime minister's vision for Digital India, a campaign launched in 2015 to ensure that government services are made available to citizens electronically through improved online infrastructure and increased internet connectivity.

Interconnect usage charges (IUC) were supposedly going to be scrapped by early 2020, but this is now uncertain. The IUC is a cost paid by one mobile operator to another when a customer makes an outgoing mobile call to another operator’s customer.

In an official response to the TRAI on the IUC matter, terms like ‘arbitrary’, ‘unwarranted’, and ‘anti-poor’ were used by Jio in what is becoming a lively debate.

Reliance Jio’s rivals don’t seem to want the charges scrapped, and the operator has made it clear that it disapproves of a consultation paper that, it says, “protects and perpetuates the vested interests” of its competitors.

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