TRAI to review telecoms tariff structure

NEW DELHI: Changing telecom landscape and increasing convergence happening between telecoms and broadcast services have made Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) initiate a fresh consultation process regarding telecoms tariff structures.

The consultation paper put out by TRAI late last week, while highlighting dealing with “emergent issues and challenges”, said the re-assessment becomes necessary to take care of regulatory principles of tariff issues like “transparency, promotional offers, disclosures and non discrimination, adherence to the principle of non-predatory pricing, meaning of predatory pricing, relevant market (and) assessment of dominant position.”

“The consultation process aims to bring about greater clarity in interpretation of various regulatory principles set out in the TTO (Telecommunication Tariff Order, 1999) in consonance with the best global practices,” the TRAI paper said.

Of late various telcos have been opposing and criticising TRAI’s inaction in dealing effectively with predatory pricing and offers, especially a comparative newcomer, Reliance Jio. An extension till March 31, 2017 to Jio’s free data offer to its consumers and targets has been the cause of heartburn in the telecom industry.

According to a news report in Mint newspaper, Market leader Bharti Airtel Ltd has moved the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), raising questions about the validity of the extension of Reliance Jio free offers till March 2017 and accusing TRAI of inaction against Jio.

While the regulator in the past has justified its actions on the Jio free offer fracas, in its latest consultation paper it explained the need to go in for a fresh assessment of the tariff structures of telecoms service providers: “Despite the amendments made to the TTO and other regulations issued to factor in various market developments, a need has been felt to undertake a comprehensive review of the TTO framework, albeit in a phased manner, starting with a discussion on the core regulatory principles enshrined in the TTO...The consultation is in line with the decision taken in the meeting held with the CEOs of the TSPs (telecoms service providers) on 6 January 2017 to discuss the annual calendar of activities of TRAI for the year 2017, which, inter-a/ia, included developing a new framework for tariffs in evolving telecommunication sector and on which there was a consensus.”

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