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Telecom

03 April, 2020, 10:39 PM IST

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TELECOM

TRAI rejects telcos' call for online talks on floor tariff

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has rejected telcos' call to hold open house discussions (OHD) on floor pricing of services through an online mechanism amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

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  • As the world locks itself down and people’s movements are severely restricted, it is ‘virtual connectivity’ that is rising to the occasion. The value of telecommunication networks —both mobile and fixed — has never been more pronounced. Advances in technology are ensuring that the world can, and is, operating seamlessly through telecom platforms.

    The sector regulator also recommended that tower service providers, under their expanded scope of operations, be allowed to own, establish, maintain and work on infrastructure items, equipment, and systems required for setting up wireline networks, RAN, and transmission links.

    Telecom sector regulator Trai has asked telecom operators to extend the validity period of prepaid users to ensure that subscribers get uninterrupted services during the 21-day nationwide lockdown.

    Operators said net subscriber additions may fall by at least 2 million in March alone, and may dip further if the social isolation advisories are kept in place for a long duration. There is not vaccine yet to treat Covid-19, which has infected over 200,000 people worldwide and killed more than 8,000.

    The decision comes within days of industry body COAI writing to TRAI for granting additional time to companies to file such reports, citing massive efforts being undertaken by telecom companies to overcome "numerous operational challenges" in order to keep vital networks up and running amid the 21-day nationwide lockdown.

    On Wednesday, the apex court rejected the telcos' self-assessed adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues and ordered them to pay the principal together with interest and penalties. Telecom companies such as Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Tata have still owes Rs 82,300 crore to the telecom department.

    "The bulk of responses have already come in through written comments, and additional inputs, if any, can be given via suitable alternates like an online or electronic open house forum, in case TRAI wants. Floor price is a pressing need of the industry," COAI Director General, Rajan Mathews said.

    "76,359 jobs have been created since 2018-19 in telecom sector," Dhotre informed the House. A total 40,445 jobs were created in 2018-19 and 35,914 jobs in 2019-20. Dhotre said job data was provided by major telecom service providers to the extent maintained by them.

    The minister said the central government wanted the revival of the BSNL for public service and fairness. He said 74 per cent of the BSNL revenue goes towards salaries of employees while in case of the private sector telecom operators, the salary outgo is less than 10 per cent.

    Days after the Niti Aayog opposed the idea of fixing of a minimum tariff for telecom services, its chief executive Amitabh Kant has written separately to the sector regulator taking a stand that looked contrary to the views of the government think tank.

    SC is set to hear the AGR case on Wednesday, and the govt's application that telcos be allowed to spread the payment of their dues over 20 years or less.

    The government is also likely to request the Supreme Court to allow affected telcos to stagger payment of AGR liabilities over up to 20 years on net present value basis, at a reduced interest rate of 8%, against the 12% that is usually charged on dues, a senior government official told.

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