Interconnect Slugfest With Cell Cos May Hit WLL Operators

New Delhi: | Updated: Dec 23 2002, 05:30am hrs
Interconnect between networks of private cellular service providers and limited mobility operators is becoming a new rope in the tug-of-war between the two. The problem - if it isnt resolved soon - will create a virtual wedge between cellular and WLL subscribers across the country as they will not be able to make or receive calls to and from each other.

According to industry experts, the unresolved interconnect issues will form an invisible wall between the mobile and wireless in local loops (WLL) networks across the country and may result in revenue losses for operators on both sides of the divide.

WLL operators like Tata Teleservices and Reliance Infocomm, however, may feel a larger impact on their business as they are in the process of rolling out their services and the absence of interconnect with cellular users could be a key deterrent in recruiting new subscribers. Mobile operators, on the other hand, are better off as they collectively have a 10-million strong subscriber base in place.

The need for operators to interconnect with each other so that their subscribers can make or receive calls across networks is impaired by the absence of any agreement on revenue sharing on local, national and international traffic.

The interconnect problem has already made itself painfully evident to Tata Teleservices that is rolling out its fixed and WLL services in four circles in the last few months. The company has failed to strike a single interconnect deal with any mobile operator.

Tata Teleservices managing director S Ramakrishnan confirmed that the companys WLL network does not connect with the network of any cellular company so far. We are still discussing with them but have not been able reach a commercial agreement on interconnect charges, he said. Mr Ramakrishnan also agreed that the lack of interconnect would have an adverse impact on the business of companies of both the sides. Tata Teleservices plans to approach Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) if cellular operators do not provide the physical interconnect soon. According to insiders, it may go to the extent of filing a public interest litigation (PIL) against cellular operators.

Basic and limited mobility service providers allege that mobile operators are using interconnect issues to arm- twist them into paying unreasonable interconnect charges.

They are asking something that is not viable and they are also rigid in negotiations, said a chief opearating officer of a WLL operator.

Cellular operators, on the other hand, say that they have a right to ask for appropriate interconnect charges. They are also upset as they are supposed to pay Rs 1.20 as access charges to fixed and WLL operators for terminating a local call while they do not get any access charge from fixed and WLL operators.

Let the regulator remove the anomalies in local call access charges first, said a senior official of a leading cellular company.