New Delhi, Nov. 27: Cellular operators today offered to match the rates at which basic telephony operators provide limited mobility services, provided the government ensures a level-playing field. “If we are given a level playing field, we will offer full mobile services at the rate of wireless in local loop mobility,” counsel for cellular operators C. S. Vaidyanathan submitted before a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice G. B. Pattanaik.
The offer was made in reply to a statement by Abhishek Manu Singhvi—the counsel for basic operators—that the total sops given by the government to cellular operators on account of the reduction of licence fees would touch over Rs 8,000 crore by 2010. “But that is only one of the bonanzas they have been given,” he said, adding there were other benefits such as reimbursement of access charges.
Vaidyanathan said the cellular operators had always passed on the sops to customers and cited the huge reduction in the cellular tariffs. He added that cellular operators were ready to forfeit the sops if they were extended in lieu of letting limited mobility ruin their business. While the cellular operators’ offer sounds tempting, it is shrouded in a lot of techno-babble and anomalies on revenue sharing.
The cellular operators say they had to pay huge entry fees, and the all-India total licence fee paid by them is around Rs 9,000 crore, which works out to an average of Rs 3,000 crore per all-India licence. Basic operators do not have to pay any fees to offer limited mobility. The all-India total licence fee paid by basic operators stands at Rs 495 crore.
A level playing field, cellular operators say, will mean first, a refund of the entry fees paid by them. Secondly, it means the same interconnect as offered to basic operators. Cellular operators currently get a point of interconnect of only one per long distance charging area, that is one revenue district.
Fixed line operators get one point of interconnect per short distance charging area. So any call outside the SDCA becomes a long distance call for the cellular operators. This anomaly has to be removed.