The Supreme Court today directed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to evolve a new set of revenue sharing norms and other regulations on interconnectivity among operators for carrying calls of one network through others.
A Bench of Chief Justice S H Kapadia asked the Trai to bring the new Interconnect Regulation on Mobile termination charges and carriage charges within four months after consulting various stake holders.
The Bench, which also included justices K S Radhakrishnan and Swatanter Kumar, asked Trai to evolve the new norms and regulations as per the directives of sectoral tribunal, Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).
The apex court gave its direction on a petition by Trai challenging the TDSAT order, which had set aside on September 29 last year the Trai's Interconnection Usage Charges (Regulation), 2009 and asked the telecom regulator to bring out fresh interconnection norms and regulations in consultations with various stake holders.
The TDSAT had set aside the Trai's 2009 IUCR on a host of petition by various mobile service provider objecting to the telcom regulator's order.
The tribunal had asked Trai to consult various telecom operators in a time bound manner and finish the entire exercise by January 1, 2011.
The Trai, however, failed to bring out the new regulation within the stipulated deadline.
In its 2009 IUC regulation, Trai had fixed a mobile termination charge (MTC) at 20 paise per minute for all local and national long distance charges.
It had also raised the MTC for incoming international calls to 40 paise per minute from 30 paise, while putting a ceiling on carriage fee of 65 paise per minute for domestic long distance calls.
Trai's IUC regulation was widely opposed by the state run BSNL and private operators - Bharti, Vodafone, Idea, Aircel, Etisalat DB and CDMA lobby group AUSPI, which had filed several petitions before the TDSAT.
BSNL wanted termination charges for the fixed wire line services to be fixed by the regulator on the data supplied by it on actual cost basis.
It also wanted the MTC for incoming ISD calls to be fixed through mutual negotiation between operators. Alternatively it wanted an MTC in the range of Rs 3 to Rs 4 instead of 30 paise, which Trai had fixed.
GSM operators including Airtel and Vodafone, on the other hand, wanted an MTC of 35 paise instead of 20 paise and had requested the TDSAT to direct Trai for a fresh consultation on this issue.
Opposing all these, Trai submitted before the Supreme Court that it had fixed the MTC in such a way so that the commercial interests of the exiting big operators and small operators could be balanced.
"While establishing IUC regime,the impact on the competition, prices, quality, incentives and investment in fixed and mobile network has to be seen. The service providers need to be fairly compensated for its investments and operational expenses through IUC to drive growth of the telecom sector," Trai had said in its petition.
Trai further submitted, "Existing operators tried to preserve their market power by refusing to interconnect or making it difficult by offering interconnection at higher price or by incorporating unreasonable terms that make it difficult to a new entrant to compete."
"If these charges would have become higher then it could unnecessarily burden consumer of the interconnection seeker."
"Mobile operators who have a large subscriber base would seem to benefit from high termination charges at the cost of smaller and newer operators as the latter are net payers of large amount of termination charges as a higher proportion of their calls terminate of large mobile operators," said Trai further in its petition.