Telecom operators, including the PSUs BSNL and MTNL, have opposed the TRAI move to charge a price for allocating new numbers, saying an additional levy is totally unwarranted.
Sectoral regulator TRAI’s main reason behind suggesting a price on allocating new numbers is that the numbers are not being efficiently utilised and it feels a price can make the operators not to dole out numbers to lure more customers. It has also sought opinion on the methods of pricing.
The existing National Numbering Plan was formulated for a projected forecast 450 million mobile and 300 million basic subscribers. Due to the tremendous growth in subscriber numbers, the plan has fallen way short of designed capacity in case of mobile numbering resources as the current subscriber base is more than 550 million.
State run BSNL has told TRAI that numbering resources is the most basic need for accessing any telecom service. The service providers are already paying licence fee for operating telecom services, of which these numbering resources form an integral part.
“No pricing for numbering resources should be implemented”, BSNL said.
Country’s largest private mobile player and number 1 operator Bharti Airtel said operators are already paying 30 per cent of their gross revenues towards levies and duties despite major fall in tariffs and ARPU (average revenue per user). So, proposing another additional levy in terms of pricing would be completely unwarranted for the industry.
“New block of numbers are alloted only after demonstrating 60 and 80 per cent utilisation stringently for mobile and fixed line respectively”, said Bharti.
Anil Ambani group firm Reliance Communications, which is the second biggest sectoral player, has echoed similar views.
RComm said telcos are already operating at wafer—thin margins which would be further eroded if numbers are made chargeable.
They would be forced to pass on the burden to customers.
“Therefore, charging of numbers is not preferable and will harm the long-term growth of the telecom sector in our country. If service providers acquire ownership rights in numbers, then any reclamation when needed would be very difficult. The sale of numbers may lead to hoarding without having served the objective of efficient utilisation of numbering resources,” RComm said.
Another PSU, MTNL said though numbering is a scarce resource and should be utilised efficiently by the operators, it is not advisable to keep any pricing policy for allotment of number blocks.
Considering that Indian customers are enjoying very cheap telecom services unlike subscribers of other countries, wherein Indian operators are facing stiff competition and striving for profit, the pricing of numbering blocks will certainly put extra burden. The result will be enhancement in tariff for the existing services, said MTNL.