More reports on: Telecom

Telecom regulator to unveil pricing norms within 45 days

20 June 2017

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will come out with a tariff assessment policy for telecom service providers, that will also help determine if pricing policies followed by a telco is predatory, within six months.

This move to bring about transparency in tariff assessment of telecom service providers comes at a time when top telcos have lined up against new entrant Reliance Jio blame it of disruptive pricing.

''We are coming up with a set of regulatory principles on tariff in a month to 1.5-month's timeframe,'' The Economic Times quoted Trai secretary Sudhir Gupta as saying. He also said the regulator was reviewing the Telecommunication Tariff Order (TTO) 1999 to bring clarity on pricing.

Mobile tariff has become a contentious issue with Reliance Jio extending its concessional tariff beyond 6 months and its older rivals also rigging pries to look offers more attractive to customers while at the same time blaming 3ach other of predatory pricing.

None of the incumbent telcos, including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India or Idea Cellular could establish allegations of predatory pricing on the part of Jio and only recently, the Sunil Bharti Mittel-led Airtel lost a case in the Competition Commission of India (CCI) where it contented that the Mukesh Ambani-led teleco, Jio, of anti-competitive tariff.

At the same time, Jio had, in April, sought Trai penalties on Bharti Airtel for violating tariff rules saying that some of its plans - priced at Rs293 and Rs449 - were marketed in a manner that misled the customer.

Join had earlier complained against incumbent tacos over failure to provide interconnectivity for its mobile services and providing their customers with customized retention plans in order to ward off threat of subscriber erosion.

Join, in its letter to the telecom watchdog, had sought action against tacos offering personalized offers without publicizing the details to retain subscribers.

Trai secretary Gupta, however, said over a period of one and a half decade, technology changes have engineered a shift from voice to data that has driven Trai to review the regulatory principles for tariffs designed in 1999.

In a 32-page consultation paper issued on February 17, the telecom regulator sought comments on processes that should be applied to assess predatory pricing. Trai said it would continue to monitor the tariffs both with respect to predatory tariffs as well as unduly high ones.

The regulator has asked stakeholders to put forth their views by April 21 and counter comments by May 1 to determine norms for predatory pricing.

The gross revenues of incumbent players have dropped significantly after oil-to-logistics conglomerate Reliance Industries forayed into telecom business with its commercial services launch in September 2016 on the back of freebies for two consecutive quarters.

Aditya Birla group's Kumar Mangalam Birla, who runs India's third-largest telco Idea Cellular, in a letter to the company's shareholders recently blamed Jio of 'unprecedented disruption' leading to the company's first loss in a decade.

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