Trai rejects allegations by Airtel, Vodafone: How to help or harm when we have no authority to change costs?

Trai rejects allegations by Airtel, Vodafone: How to help or harm when we have no authority to change costs?

New Delhi, September 20: Charges of non transparency in the decision to cut call connect rate was dismissed by R S Sharma, Trai Chairman on Wednesday. He asserted that there is no question of ‘helping or harming’ any operator as the cost calculation is objective and scientific.

Sharma told that after considering consumer and industry interests, competition and march technology, Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) had finalised the IUC (interconnection usage charge).

For terminating a mobile call on a rival network, Trai had yesterday decided to slash the charge paid by an operator  to 6 paise a minute, from the current 14 paise. No such charge would apply from 1 January 2020, told the regulator.

Alleging that the move would benefit only one operator and will worsen the financial health of stressed industry, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone criticised regulator’s decision on the call connect charge.

Sharma told that they don’t have any authority to change the costs and he asked, “where is the question of helping or harming someone?”

He said Trai has, in fact, been “conservative” in its approach on setting a 2020 deadline for phasing out the charge.

“In case there are changes in the entire scheme of things and it has to be reviewed, we have right to look at it one year from implementation. We will keep a close watch on developments of new technology,” he pointed out.

Sharma refused to comment on the possibility of older operators approaching courts on the IUC rate cut, saying in a free country, people have the right to approach legal forums.

“It is a free country and there is democracy. Everyone has right to approach legal forum. I have no comment to offer,” he said.

Rejecting allegations by Bharti Airtel and Vodafone that the rate cut favoured one operator in particular, Sharma emphasised that the exercise was only about computation of costs based on the work done by a network.

The detailed methodology on which Trai’s calculations are based is part of the explanatory memorandum to the regulations all of which have been placed in the public domain now, he added.

“It is not as if Trai has utilised a discretionary power. There is detailed computation for public view,” Sharma said.

Sharma added that Trai has adopted a rigorous process in arriving at the new IUC charge and noted that the consultations had spanned 13 months encompassing open house, comments and counter-comments from the industry.

“The cost particulars have been taken from submission of service providers to Trai. There is a detailed explanatory memorandum running into 62 pages and Annexure giving the methodology of calculation of termination charge. The computation has been done in a scientific and objective manner,” the Trai chief asserted.

(Inputs from agencies)