The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) on Tuesday met telecom operators in which the companies urged that the regulator should look into rationalisation of levies like spectrum usage charge (SUC) and licence fee (LF), pain points in infrastructure expansion and regulation of OTT players, among others.
During the meeting, which saw representatives of Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio, Trai asked the companies to submit more inputs on the issues concerned, specifically rationalisation of levies and infra pain points so that it can float a consultation paper on the same.
Briefing reporters after the over two-hour-long meeting, Trai chairman R S Sharma said: “I think we had a very good meeting with all operators. They were essentially unanimous in their view that Trai should deal with some of the important issues in 2018. While we do not have a final agreed list, there are a few points which have been agreed by both of us and we will be having consultation on them. Telcos will give Trai some more inputs and then we will finalise it. However, just to give a broad idea, there are issues like rationalisation of levies, consultation on OTT, one-country-one-licence, infrastructure related issues in the sector, etc”.
On rationalising SUC and LF, Sharma said that during the deliberations operators raised the issue of multiplicity of levies. “They said like GST whether there can be some rationalisation in this particular aspect. We have not given any commitment, but have asked them for more inputs so that we can consider issuing a consultation paper and consult all the stakeholders,” he explained.
Reduction in SUC and LF has been a long standing industry demand on which it has become more vocal in the last one year as the industry is passing through a tough phase due to the hyper competition in the market, which is impacting revenues thereby exacerbating financial stress in terms of loan repayment and debt servicing obligations.
The total liabilities of the companies stand at around Rs 7.75 lakh crore as on March 31, 2017, of which bank borrowings and liabilities for spectrum-related payment to DoT alone stand at Rs 5.80 lakh crore.
On issues related to bottlenecks in infrastructure expansion, the Trai chief said, “Everyone agrees that telecom is not merely a facility for providing communication services, it is now an enabler for many other things. It is an enabler for 5G, IoT, agriculture, smart cities, etc. So it is an enabling infrastructure, which should be treated with that importance and therefore whatever are the issues related to this infrastructure, we should have a consultation on it”.
Operators also want to hold consultation on mobile number portability (MNP) and unsolicited commercial calls or spam calls, Sharma added.
Sharma said that the regulator will come out with the call drop data from October-December quarter based on the new Quality of Services (QoS) norms by month-end. The new QoS norms came into effect from October 1, 2017. FE