Telecom Watchdog notice to Trai over revenue sharing between cell operators and IndiaOne

Updated: Jan 24 2002, 05:30am hrs
In a bid to stop the cellular operators from offering national long distance (NLD) services based on the IndiaOne network, the Telecom Watchdog has served a legal notice to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on January 22, for what it terms as a “financial scam of the highest order”.

Telecom Watchdog is also threatening to file a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) if Trai allows the revenue sharing arrangement between IndiaOne and cellular operators to be implemented.

Telecom Watchdog, which has only 2,000 registered members, is a non-government organization which was set up in 1999.

It has filed four public interest litigations (PILs) till date — against implementation of the calling party pays regime, corporatisation of Department of Telecommunications (DoT), Sankhya Vahini, and in favour of implementation of wireless in local loop (WLL) services.

Telecom Watchdog secretary Anil Kumar has denied that the current legal notice or the PIL being planned are motivated by any telecom player.

As per the notice, cellular operators “can not be allowed to enjoy double benefit — one under the higher stand alone cost-based tariff and another under the proposed higher STD revenue share.”

Under the existing regime, private cellular operators are allowed to retain only 5 per cent of the long distance revenue share, while IndiaOne offers up to 20 per cent of the revenue share to the operators from whose network the call originates.

Telecom Watchdog wants that Trai should ensure that instead of the cellular operators, the benefit of the higher STD revenue share is passed on to the cellular consumers in the form of lower rentals.

If this is not immediately possible, then all the enhanced revenue share should be deposited by the cellular operators in some separate account to ensure subsequent compensation to the consumers, the notice suggests.

Telecom Watchdog has pointed out that as per clause 4.4 of the cellular services licence agreement “all long distance connectivity outside the service area will be through PSTN (public switch telephone network) network of DoT”. Cellular operators “cannot be allowed to switch over to private NLD operators arbitrarily,” the notice adds.

However, when pointed out that since this clause has become outdated in face of opening up of the NLD sector for private competition, specially since the new cellular licence allow direct interconnection with private NLDOs, Mr Kumar said that “only the new licence agreement allow the operators to inter-connect with private operators.

The government should make the relevant changes in the earlier licence agreement.”

Telecom Watchdog has also pointed out that currently customers are not being given the choice for selecting their NLD operator as stipulated in clause 32 of NLD licence agreement.

However, when pointed out that the delay in the choice being extended to the end-user is due to a delay on the part of BSNL to upgrade its network to accommodate the new system, Mr Kumar said that it is Trai’s responsibility to take BSNL to task and to ensure that customers are given the choice at the earliest.