The government should bear the cost of setting up a telecom network for routing calls on priority for persons involved in rescue and relief operations instead of passing on the burden to telecom operators, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said on Wednesday.
The semi-autonomous regulatory authority had given its recommendations for network management during disasters in November 2013, such as the massive floods and landslides in the mountains of Uttarakhand.
The Department of Telecom (DoT) then formed a committee to examine the recommendations. The DoT in November 2014 forwarded the report of committee to Trai for its comments.
Reiterating its recommendations, Trai said, "The authority is of the opinion that provision for priority call routing for the persons involved in the rescue and relief operations is the requirement of government and not of the TSPs. Therefore, the expenditure(s), if any, should be borne by the government."
The DoT said costs involved in setting up of separate networks and associated expenses, which is not part of the TSP's networks, should be funded and overseen by the government.
"TSPs (telecom service providers) need to upgrade and provide necessary configurations, provisioning, connectivity and roaming arrangements as per licence conditions and no cost is to be incurred by government on part of this," DoT added.
However, Trai said the service providers design their networks based on traffic and commercial considerations. Normally, they do not take into account a situation wherein they need to provide priority to a few of their subscribers who are involved in rescue and relief operations, it added.
Trai has also proposed that on successful implementation of priority call routing (PCR) scheme across the entire network, the operators' costs should be reimbursed.
DoT said it may enforce through relevant clauses of license conditions to implement PCR by telecom operators in their networks and no cost against CAPEX / OPEX need to be reimbursed.
The Authority, however, said it does not agree with the conclusion of the DoT's committee that no cost against CAPEX/ OPEX needs to be reimbursed to the TSPs by the government.
"The Authority is apprehensive that non-reimbursement of expenditure may result in non-starter of the PCR services in the country. Therefore, the Authority reiterates its recommendation," Trai added.
Regarding the implementation of PCR scheme, Trai said during emergencies, primary requirement for the persons involved in the rescue and relief operations is of voice communication for effective coordination so that relief to the victims can be provided at the earliest.
"The requirement of communication for the rescue and relief team is of urgent nature and the Authority's focus in its recommendations was to utilise the available infrastructure quickly and in cost effective manner, PS domain system did not form part of the Recommendations," it said.
The Authority has also reiterated other recommendations regarding the formation of steering committee, intra circle roaming pacts, formulation of national telecom emergency plans among others.