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Phone operators likely to absorb new Trai charge

New Delhi, Oct. 9: Mobile and fixed line telephone users are unlikely to be affected by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) plans to set rates for access deficit and interconnect user charges.

Trai has also proposed that only those calls from private operators that terminate in or originate from Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd's (BSNL) network will have to pay an access deficit charge. It is a charge an operator gets for offering services at a lower cost to meet social obligations set by the government, like offering telephones in rural and inaccessible areas at a higher infrastructure cost.

Trai has said the access deficit and interconnect user charges (IUC) that it will announce can be absorbed by the operators without affecting their margins and customers. “We are not just regulators for the operators but our mandate is to ensure that customers do not pay unreasonably. An access deficit charge involves complicated calculations and many aspects are taken into consideration while fixing it,” said a senior Trai official.

“The aspects considered include market conditions, subscriber growth, commercial viability, licence conditions and network of operators,” said officials.

The regulator wants telecom operators to be compensated through the access deficit charge for offering services in unrenumerative areas. “Trai has agreed in principle that there should be such a charge and this will be announced in the third week of October. We cannot comment who will benefit or suffer. The revised access deficit charge regime will impose a lower burden due to a lower overall access deficit, and will thus allow competition in the market to sustain. It will even leave scope to reduce the prevailing tariff levels in all services,” said a senior member of Trai.

“Under the revised IUC regime, which will be announced shortly, the amount of access deficit calculated is much lower than that estimated earlier. To remove the regulatory distortions in the current regime, the funding of the access deficit will be spread over calls from all access providers, and not only those involving fixed line service providers,” Trai said.

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