SC asks TRAI to evolve new norms for mobile interconnectivity

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New Delhi, Feb 4 (PTI) The Supreme Court today directedtelecom regulator TRAI to evolve a new set of revenue sharingnorms and other regulations on interconnectivity amongoperators for carrying calls of one network through others.

A bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia asked the TelecomRegulatory Authority of India to bring the new InterconnectRegulation on Mobile termination charges and carriage chargeswithin four months after consulting various stake holders.

The bench, which also included justices K S Radhakrishnanand Swatanter Kumar, asked TRAI to evolve the new norms andregulations as per the directives of sectoral tribunal,Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

The apex court gave its direction on a petition by TRAIchallenging the TDSAT order, which had set aside on September29 last year the TRAI''s Interconnection Usage Charges(Regulation), 2009 and asked the telecom regulator to bringout fresh interconnection norms and regulations inconsultations with various stake holders.

The TDSAT had set aside the TRAI''s 2009 IUCR on a host ofpetition by various mobile service provider objecting to thetelcom regulator''s order.

The tribunal had asked TRAI to consult various telecomoperators in a time bound manner and finish the entireexercise by January 1, 2011.

The TRAI, however, failed to bring out the new regulationwithin the stipulated deadline.

In its 2009 IUC regulation, TRAI had fixed a mobiletermination charge (MTC) at 20 paise per minute for all localand national long distance charges.

It had also raised the MTC for incoming internationalcalls to 40 paise per minute from 30 paise, while putting aceiling on carriage fee of 65 paise per minute for domesticlong distance calls.

TRA''s IUC regulation was widely opposed by the state runBSNL and private operators - Bharti, Vodafone, Idea, Aircel,Etisalat DB and CDMA lobby group AUSPI, which had filedseveral petitions before the TDSAT.

BSNL wanted termination charges for the fixed wire lineservices to be fixed by the regulator on the data suppliedby it on actual cost basis.

It also wanted the MTC for incoming ISD calls to be fixedthrough mutual negotiation between operators. Alternatively itwanted an MTC in the range of Rs 3 to Rs 4 instead of 30paise, which TRAI had fixed.

GSM operators including Airtel and Vodafone, on the otherhand, wanted an MTC of 35 paise instead of 20 paise and hadrequested the TDSAT to direct TRAI for a fresh consultation onthis issue.

Opposing all these, TRAI submitted before the SupremeCourt that it had fixed the MTC in such a way so that thecommercial interests of the exiting big operators and smalloperators could be balanced.

"While establishing IUC regime,the impact on thecompetition, prices, quality, incentives and investment infixed and mobile network has to be seen. The service providersneed to be fairly compensated for its investments andoperational expenses through IUC to drive growth of thetelecom sector," TRAI had said in its petition.

TRAI further submitted, "Existing operators tried topreserve their market power by refusing to interconnect ormaking it difficult by offering interconnection at higherprice or by incorporating unreasonable terms that make itdifficult to a new entrant to compete."

"If these charges would have become higher then it couldunnecessarily burden consumer of the interconnection seeker".

"Mobile operators who have a large subscriber base wouldseem to benefit from high termination charges at the cost ofsmaller and newer operators as the latter are net payers oflarge amount of termination charges as a higher proportion oftheir calls terminate of large mobile operators," said TRAIfurther in its petition.

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