Regulators

TRAI‘s Draft of interconnect agreement out; seeks counter-comments by Jan 7

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New Delhi: With an aim of reducing disputes and because the regulations for pacts between multisystem operators and local cable operators can only be entered into on the basis of interconnect agreements, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI )today issued a draft Model and Standard Interconnection Agreement for offering cable TV services through Digital Addressable Systems (DAS) .

Stakeholders have been asked to give their comments and counter-comments on the draft latest by 31 December and 7 January respectively.

The interconnection regulation further provides that the interconnection agreement between the MSO and its linked LCO shall have the details of various activities rendered by LCO and MSOs, and the revenue settlement between the parties for these services. The regulatory framework applicable for DAS also provides that the revenue share between LCO and MSO shall be as determined by mutual agreement. In case the MSO and the LCO fail to arrive at mutual agreement, TRAI has mandated the subscription revenue share between the MSO and the LCO as a fall back arrangement.

The model is the outcome of interactions with MSOs and LCOs in the various parts of the country between January and October this year, with the objective of enhancing awareness about the regulatory framework among stakeholders and to assess the compliance of the regulatory framework.

During these interactions, the stakeholders raised the issue that the terms and conditions of the agreement offered by the MSO were one sided and do not provide a level playing field to the LCOs. Often the obligation of both the parties for meeting the quality of service norms prescribed in the QoS regulation was not clearly defined in the interconnection agreement and due to which, in the event of dispute between the MSO and the LCO, the quality of service was adversely affected.

The existing regulation and tariff orders applicable for DAS may also require suitable amendments to incorporate necessary provisions relating to Model and Standard Interconnection Agreements between the MSO and the LCO, TRAI said in a consultation paper.

The Model and Standard Interconnection Agreements contains mandatory provisions to ensure the compliance of the regulatory framework available for DAS. The proposed draft consists of a Model Interconnection Agreement (MIA) and Standard Interconnection agreements (SIA) in a single document, namely draft model and standard interconnection agreements.

The draft contains necessary terms and conditions, to ensure the compliance of the regulatory framework available for DAS, and to provide a level playing field to the MSOs and the LCOs. The draft agreement also lists roles and responsibilities as well as rights and obligations of each party separately.

While notifying the regulatory framework in 2012, TRAI did not formulate SIA and left it to market forces as there could be various relationship models between the MSOs and the LCOs. It was envisaged that this would provide enough flexibility to the stakeholders while transitioning from analogue un-addressable systems to digital addressable systems.

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In cases where the revenue settlement was mutually agreed between the MSO and the LCO, the MIA part of the draft agreement would be applicable. In other cases where the revenue settlement could not be agreed mutually between the MSO and the LCO; and it wasdecided to continue relationship based on the fall back subscription revenue share arrangement as prescribed in the tariff order, the SIA part of the draft agreement would be applicable. 

Apart from clauses 10 to 12 of the proposed draft agreement, which relate to roles and responsibilities of the MSOs and the LCOs, billing, and revenue settlement, other clauses would remain same in the final Model and Standard Interconnection Agreement.

In clause 10 of the proposed draft agreement, some of the roles have been clubbed together to assign common responsibility of these roles either to the MSO or to the LCO. Splitting of these roles may cause inconsistencies and gaps in delivery of satisfactory services to the consumers. However at consultation stage, the stakeholders can provide their valuable comments on re-grouping of roles, if felt necessary, with justifications.

In case of the SIA, the responsibilities for various roles shall be fixed as per column 4 of the clause 10 of this draft agreement after considering the comments of the stakeholders. Similarly the billing and revenue settlement responsibilities shall also be fixed as per clause 11 and 12 respectively of this draft agreement after considering the comments of the stakeholders. Accordingly, all the terms and conditions of SIA which include the revenue share settlement conditions also, shall be standardised after prescription of SIA. No additions, deletions, and or alteration would be permitted thereafter in SIA terms and conditions.

In the case of the MIA, the responsibilities for various roles to be finalised in clause 10 of this draft agreement, can be mutually agreed by the parties and recorded in writing in the column 3 of clause 10 of this draft agreement. In this case, column 4 of the clause 10 of this draft agreement would not be applicable. Similarly the billing and revenue settlement responsibilities shall also be agreed mutually as per clause 11 and 12 of this draft agreement respectively and recorded in writing in the agreement. No deletions, and/or alteration would be permitted thereafter in MIA terms and conditions. However, the parties, through mutual agreement, may add certain additional terms and conditions subject to such terms and conditions do not dilute, override, and or alter the existing terms and conditions. In case of any conflict between the existing terms and conditions of the prescribed MIA, and new terms and conditions added through mutual agreement by the parties; the existing terms and conditions of the prescribed MIA shall prevail.

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