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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has tightened the network connectivity rules by mandating a 30-day deadline for firms to ink interconnection pacts on a non-discriminatory basis. It has also fixed a daily penalty of up to Rs 100,000 per service area for violations. The ‘Telecom Interconnection Regulations 2018’ are to come into force from February 1 and assume significance as Reliance Jio and other telcos clashed over network connectivity issues and inadequate ports in the past. Jio, the new entrant, had accused established operators such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular of not giving it sufficient Points of Interconnect (PoIs), leading to massive call failures on its network, even as the incumbents had blamed free calls offered by Jio for a “tsunami” of network traffic.
Trai said “Every service provider shall, within 30 days of receipt of request from a service provider, enter into interconnection agreement, on non-discriminatory basis, with such service provider”.The regulator has fixed five days for service providers to respond to interconnection seekers with a draft pact. So far, there was no explicit timeline for inking of interconnect agreements. Trai has also laid down a ‘formula’ that would act as a ceiling for bank guarantees in case of interconnection, instead of the current practice of such guarantees being negotiated between operators. For provisioning of ports at the PoI, the regulator has fixed a 30-day time frame, instead of the earlier 90 days. “Interconnection charges such as set-up charges and infrastructure charges may be mutually negotiated between service providers subject to the regulations or directions issued by the Authority... provided such charges are reasonable, transparent and non-discriminatory,” Trai said. For disconnection of ports, a service provider would have to now give a showcause notice of 15 working days to the other telco were clearly disclosing the reasons for the proposed disconnection. If not satisfied by the reply or in case no reply, the operator would give a notice of 15 days for specifying the disconnection date for PoIs.