title-bar

IUC a never ending debate? Here’s what to do

By: |
Updated: September 9, 2016 7:31:44 AM

Move the interconnect from buffet to a la carte system. It may bring an end to the never ending debate on IUC charge.

The IUC charge defined by Trai can be a guide and in case the parties mutually decide to pay a higher IUC charge they should be allowed to agree on that.(Reuters)The IUC charge defined by Trai can be a guide and in case the parties mutually decide to pay a higher IUC charge they should be allowed to agree on that.(Reuters)

The current interconnect regulation requires connectivity to be provided with circuit switched network, whereas, the licence has a provision for multiple modes of connectivity.

The licence provides: “Clause 27.3: Interconnection between the networks of different Licensees for carrying circuit switched traffic shall be as per national standards of CCS No 7 and for carrying IP based traffic as per Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) standards as amended from time to time by TEC and also subject to technical feasibility and technical integrity of the Networks and shall be within the overall framework of interconnection regulations/ directions/ orders issued by the TRAI Licensor from time to time. For inter-networking between circuit switched and IP based network, the Licensee shall install Media Gateway Switch. Further, the Licensor may direct the Licensee to adopt any other technical standards issued by TEC on interconnection related issues.”

Three connectivities are allowed:

  • Between two circuit switched networks(CSN)
  • For carrying IP-based traffic, i.e., between two IP networks
  • Between CSN and IP based network

Therefore, interconnect can be allowed at three levels. Rather than creating a situation of connectivity only through CSN all the three options should be available to the operators. Let us now see the conditions applicable for each type of connectivity:

CSN with another CSN

The licence inter alia provides as under: (para27.3) “Interconnection between the networks of different Licensees for carrying circuit switched traffic shall be as per national standards of CCS No 7…… as per Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) standards as amended from time to time by Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) and also subject to technical feasibility and technical integrity of the Networks and shall be within the overall framework of interconnection regulations/directions/orders issued by the TRAI/Licensor from time to time…”

Some access service providers have traditionally set up CSN and, therefore, they should be allowed to continue with the connectivity on CSN basis, as per national standard on CCS7 basis, with those operators who are also keen to seek connectivity at CSN level. This will not upset the existing set up.

Therefore, wherever the two operators mutually decide to interconnect they should be allowed and, this option should be available as one of the options and not the only option. The IUC charge defined by Trai can be a guide and in case the parties mutually decide to pay a higher IUC charge they should be allowed to agree on that. This will take care of the objections of operators like Airtel, Vodafone and idea as they can continue to interconnect between themselves at CSN level and pay the termination charge to each other as mutually agreed, which could be higher than the TRAI charge. Wherever the agreement does not happen, on higher charge, the connectivity must be provided at a rate specified by Trai.

CSN with PSN

The licence agreement clause 27.3 provides that: For inter-networking between circuit switched and IP based network, the Licensee shall install Media Gateway Switch. Further, the Licensor may direct the LICENSEE to adopt any other technical standards issued by TEC on interconnection related issues.

This is the second option, where the two network operators mutually decide to connect as per modality, follow the rules of connectivity as announced by Trai and follow technical standards as specified by TEC. Trai can calculate a separate cost-based termination charge payable in this type of connectivity.

PSN with another PSN

Para 27.3 inter alia provides: … and for carrying IP based traffic as per Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) standards as amended from time to time by Telecom Engineering Centre (TEC) and also subject to technical feasibility and technical integrity of the Networks and shall be within the overall framework of interconnection regulations/ directions/ orders issued by the TRAI Licensor from time to time.

The third option is to interconnect packet switched network with another packet switched network. Trai should come out with the rules and regulations for this mode of connectivity and TEC to come out with standards for connectivity. Once this is done the interconnection at this level should become mandatory between the networks which have set up IP-based capability in their networks and should, mandatorily, be required to offer the connectivity at IP level. The operator who is seeking IP level connectivity should not be forced to seek CSN-based connectivity in such cases … A cost based charge for this mode of connectivity may also be defined or the regulator may decide to keep it as “BAK” to encourage development of technology.

Once IP to IP connectivity is allowed then operators like Hike, WhatsApp, Viber etc, should be directed to provide service only after obtaining unified licence from DOT. This framework of interconnection regime will help in security and monitoring of services, and the government will start getting revenue share on the calls from WhatsApp-like operators, which are going absolutely free because of no licencing requirement. This will also be in line with the recommendation of the government appointed committee on net neutrality which had recommended some light touch regulation on calls and services via internet.

Termination charge

The termination charge should be calculated separately for each type of the above three connectivities. Trai in its paper has acknowledged the fact that, mobile termination cost was estimated on the basis of underlying network having CS RAN and not PS RAN. Introduction of PS RAN in the new networks raises a concern, as to whether the MTC estimated for networks having CS RAN would still be applicable on networks with PS RAN.

Therefore, the solution may be to move away from the current buffet system of connectivity, where it is necessary to interconnect to CSN directly or through media gateway, to an a la carte system of connectivity, to seek connectivity in any of the above three modalities and pay the termination charge, as applicable. This perhaps may bring an end to this never ending debate on IUC charge.

The author is CEO, Tathya Consulting

Get live Stock Prices from BSE and NSE and latest NAV, portfolio of Mutual Funds, calculate your tax by Income Tax Calculator, know market’s Top Gainers, Top Losers & Best Equity Funds. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Switch to Hindi Edition