The telecom tribunal TDSAT has directed the regulator TRAI to review its policy of reducing interconnection charges paid by operators, saying there was lack of transparency in the process.
Hearing a petition filed by state-owned telcos MTNL and BSNL challenging the February 2007 TRAI decision to reduce the interconnection charges - the fee one operator pays to other for connectivity - TDSAT said, “we are of the opinion that the issues raised before us by the parties require a fresh look by the TRAI itself.”
A bench of Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) headed by Justice SB Sinha said, TRAI has the undisputed powers to make, modify or alter the port or interconnection charges. However, while doing so it is required to maintain a high level of transparency that appears not to have been followed in this particular case, it added.
TRAI fixes charges for connecting calls from one port to another and this is one element of the interconnection charges which is also known as port charges.
TRAI had on February 2, 2007 reduced the port charges to 20 per cent from 23 per cent effective April 1, 2007, saying that in a multi-operator, multi-service industry, introduction of a new port policy was essential and that high port charges are detrimental to the industry.
Rejecting the contention of the TRAI that the policy is beneficial to established service providers, the TDSAT said it is difficult to consider that BSNL would appeal against a regulation that benefited it.
The tribunal also turned down the submission of the cellular operators association that BSNL recovered the port charges in seven years against 10 years as envisaged in the 2001 regulation and no further payment is required.
“The interconnection provider generally is required to replace the existing equipment necessary for continuance of interconnection from time to time and, therefore, the proposition made by the service providers that cost of the existing ports is completely recovered within seven years and no further payment should be applicable with sunset clause for port charges, is not sustainable in the present scenario,” the tribunal said.
Port is an essential part for interconnection between two networks which enables a caller of one network to connect with the called of another network and the party that provides the port gets paid for this interconnection.