The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Quibble over four options on telecom

New Delhi, April 19: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today managed to keep its credibility intact and did not buckle under political pressure from Swadeshi Jagran Manch and the BJP that had opposed the interconnect user charges (IUC) and the hike in rentals of telephones and also the technical problems presented by the private and government operators.

There was a strong opposition from the members in Parliament and from within the government’s ally Swadeshi Jagran Manch had cast a cloud over the implementation of IUC regime from May.

Trai managed to broker a solution to keep alive its reputation and implement the tariff plan that it proposed in January.

The regulator had been given four options by a committee consisting of Association of Basic Telecom Operators (ABTO), Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL). This committee was set up after the operators submitted their inability to start the IUC regime from April 1, the date fixed by the regulator.

Among the four options proposed by the committee, the regulator has picked the first option to get the IUC implemented.

Option one provides for the exchange of call data records (CDRs) between limited mobility operators and BSNL. This is important for the private operators to track whether a call has been made from a limited mobile phone or a fixed line phone. So, the billing is transparent when BSNL would prepare the bill for private operators based on IUC.

However, there is no clarity yet on whether the operators will share the complete details of their subscribers profile or not. BSNL will refund the excess amount paid for WLL (M) calls based on CDRs provided by the private cellular operators.

The private cellular operators will also provide CDRs to limited mobile operators.

According to the note presented to Trai, “The strengths of this option was immediate implementation of the IUC in a manner it is prescribed. Least change in any network-access or NLD (BSNL), current process of reconciliation. Simple to implement as per private cellular operators demand.”

While highlighting its concerns about the scheme, the committee said, “Time to reconcile and refund has to be determined with agreed time.

However, this is not acceptable to basic service operators except Bharti because reconciliation will be at multiple points and also commercially not acceptable.”

“In BSNL’s view, they do not have mechanism to reconcile with data supplied by access providers. Hence, this will also lead to dispute and is, therefore, not acceptable to BSNL. For BSOs, reconciliation will have to be done at Level-I and Level II exchanges.”

According to the second option Option, “BSNL is to create charging database for BSNL WLL (M)/ Fixed Line termination and private operator to make database for private WLL (M)/ Fixed Line destinations.”

However, this has been rejected because it will give very little time for private basic operators to implement IUC. The BSOs exchanges are not capable of implementing this option. Bharti feels that this solution, although very complex to implement, is technically feasible and can be implemented with additional effort and cost if mandated to all.

Further BSNL exchanges are not capable of implementing this option. The requirement/ responsibility of Digit Analysis to route a call to the desired destination/service being transferred from NLDO to basic providers switch.

“It will reduce the capacity of call handling (BHCA) and the number of subscribers that can be served. High commercial impact on BSO. Switches are not dimensioned to handle such type of analysis,” states the committee’s report.

The third option of the committee states, that the access provider will analyse the number dialled by their subscribers and route the calls to BSNL on two different trunk groups for terminating in WLL (M) and that for fixed networks.

However, this too has been rejected by since the cellular operators had said that a complete analysis of the dialled digits should be avoided in the real time systems like access provider switch and always preferred to be handled in off line billing systems.

The fourth states that the acc ess providers (BSO/CMTS) shall route all their long distance calls to NLDO (BSNL) on a single trunk Group. BSNL (NLDO) shall charge all long distance calls terminating in Basis (Fixed & WLL (M) network uniformly as fixed network terminating calls. However, this too has been rejected since cellular operators do not consider this as an option as this is beyond IUC regulation and takes away the distinction between WLL (M) and fixed.

Further, the committee in its report states that, “The BSOs tried to raise other issues related to IUC but the same were not discussed as the mandate of today's meeting was to discuss only the problem highlighted by BSNL regarding IUC payable at originating end for long distance calls handed over to BSNL for terminating in WLL (M) network at the distant end.”

The cellular operators are strongly in favour of implementing the Option-1 which is neither acceptable to BSNL nor to other BSOs. Cellular operators strongly suggest that any solution adopted to address the problem mentioned by BSNL shall apply uniformly to CMSPs and BSO/BTNL. It should be non-discriminatory and comply with level playing field.

The report also states that “BSNL can accept the third option for which BSO and CMSPs have reservations that their switches shall get overloaded.”

In the end, however, everyone plumped for Option One.

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