Stiff rules for cell network connection

New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has tightened the network connectivity rules by setting a 30-day deadline for cellular operators to ink interconnection pacts on a non-discriminatory basis and fixed a daily penalty of up to Rs 1 lakh per service area for violation.

The Telecom Interconnection Regulations 2018 issued by Trai will come into force from February 1.

The rules assume significance as newcomer Reliance Jio and incumbent telecom operators had, in the past, clashed over network connectivity issues and inadequate ports.

At the time of the launch of its services in 2016, Jio had accused established operators such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular of not giving it sufficient points of interconnect (PoIs) leading to massive call failures on its network, even as the incumbents had blamed free calls offered by Jio for clogged networks.

The telecom regulator has now stipulated a penalty of up to Rs 1 lakh per day per service area for operators who violate its latest interconnect rules.

Trai has also said that "every service provider shall, within 30 days of receipt of request from a service provider, enter into interconnection agreement, on non-discriminatory basis, with such service provider".

Trai has given five days to service providers to respond to interconnection seekers with a draft interconnect pact.

So far, there was no explicit timeline for inking interconnect agreements.

Trai, has also laid down a "formula" that would act as a ceiling for "bank guarantees" in case of interconnection, instead of the current practice of such guarantees being worked out through mutual negotiation between operators.

For provisioning of ports at the points of interconnect (point of exchange of network traffic), the regulator has fixed a 30-day time-frame instead of 90 days earlier.

"The interconnection charges may be mutually negotiated between service providers subject to the regulations or directions issued by the authority...provided that such charges are reasonable, transparent and non-discriminatory," Trai said in its interconnect regulations.

The regulations will apply to all the service providers offering telecom services in India, Trai said in a statement.

A mail sent to operators, including Airtel and Jio, seeking their views on the rules went unanswered.


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