More reports on: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

Predatory pricing: incumbents free to approach courts, says Trai

28 February 2018

Defending the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's (Trai) latest orders on predatory pricing, the authority's chairman R S Sharma said that any company or entity that thinks the orders are not fair is free to go to court.

''We have no reservations or objections if someone wants to challenge Trai's order in court. After all, that is the right place and the right forum to do so,'' R S Sharma told sections of the media on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on Tuesday.

Questioned about the statement by the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) that TRAI's latest order on predatory pricing was against the industry and would be challenged in court, Sharma said he would welcome such a move by the industry body.

''I don't want to get into the controversy itself. They (COAI) have gone to court earlier also alleging that Trai was biased in favour of one operator (new entrant Reliance Jio Infocom). They had gone to court and lost,'' Sharma said.

On Monday, Vodafone global chief executive officer Vitorio Colao said that the latest TRAI order on predatory pricing supports only one company, Reliance Jio, and that Vodafone would challenge the Trai order in court.

Sharma said Trai was doing everything it can for ease of doing business and had adopted a light-touch approach. ''The Trai regulation (on predatory pricing) is absolutely clear,'' Sharma said.

Sharma responded to say that everybody has the right to go to court.

The latest tussle between Jio and the older 'incumbents' is Trai's recently amended tariff order that says predatory pricing will in future be determined on the basis of average variable cost and whether there is specific intention on the part of a carrier to reduce or kill competition.

It has also modified the definition of significant market power (SMP) - which a telco should have for any of its plans to be deemed predatory - to an operator with more than a 30 per cent share by either subscriber base or gross revenue. Earlier, the SMP parameters included volume of traffic, including data, and switching capacity, which have been dropped in the amended regulation.

Both Vodafone and COAI have suggested they may challenge the order in court. While Jio is a member of COAI, it is seen as mostly representing the older 'incumbents' Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular.

Asked about the discussions around 5G, Sharma said TRAI would come out with its recommendations in the next month or two.

''We have already come out with key recommendations related to 5G like M2M (machine to machine), cloud computing and IoT (internet of things). So, the basic pieces of 5G infrastructure have been addressed by TRAI,'' he said.

''We have completed the open house discussion on spectrum auction, including 5G, and will come out with the recommendations in one to two months,'' he added.

On net neutrality, Sharma said there is all-round praise for India from global regulators such as the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and ARCEP, France's equivalent of the Federal Communications Commission in the US.

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