The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is reportedly pressing the country’s Supreme Court for a three-month extension in order to complete the necessary work for setting out a new interconnection fee regime. According to India’s Economic Times, the regulator had been given a deadline of 4 June by which to put forward its recommendations for an interconnection usage charges (IUC) regime, but alongside its request for more time, the TRAI has also asked the apex court to ‘grant suitable directions regarding the procedure and method to be followed by it since there are difficulties/issues with regard to implementation of compliance with the directions of [the] Telecoms Dispute and Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) in the impugned order.’ The move comes after continued opposition to the TRAI’s IUC proposals, with operators including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular all having opposed the proposed regulations amid concerns over the methods adopted by the regulator in its consultation process for the new charging regime.
The development comes after the TDSAT dismissed Vodafone’s appeal that alleged the TRAI’s consultation process did not conform to the tribunal’s earlier orders. Vodafone claimed that the TRAI did not follow the methodology set down by the TDSAT in an earlier order, in which it had recommended the adoption of cost-based methodology that includes capital expenditure. ‘Correct principle and methodology to determine mobile termination charge is a cost-based methodology, which includes capital cost, and the regulatory body has to comply with the adjudicating body verdict in carrying out the exercise,’ Vodafone’s counsel Gopal Jain had noted. For its part the TRAI refuted such a suggestion, arguing that the tribunal had not in fact recommended any type of methodology for determining the termination charge.
Currently Indian operators have a termination charge of INR0.20 (USD0.0044) per minute, and while the levy is a major earner for older cellcos which account for the bulk of the country’s subscribers, newer operators have called for an end to the charge, arguing that this would provide a more level playing field.