HC scraps telecom regulator's order to lower number portability charge

Illustration: Binay Sinha
The Delhi High Court on Friday set aside the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) decision to lower the fees for Mobile Number Portability (MNP) from Rs 19 per port to Rs 4 per port.

The fee was first set at Rs 19 per port, but was later brought down to Rs 4 by an amendment made to the rules on August 31, 2018. TRAI had then said that the amount shall be paid only if the porting request of the customer was successful.

The decision of TRAI was challenged by Syniverse Technologies (India) and MNP Interconnection Telecom Solutions India, which are the only two licenced companies in the business. The companies petitioned before the high court that with the consolidation in telecom market, there would be fewer port requests and a lower fee would render them unable to recover their costs. The two companies had also planned to undertake cost and capital expenditure based on the initial fee of Rs 19.

TRAI had initially arrived at the per port transaction charge by dividing the total costs of the MNP service provider by the estimated number of porting subscribers over a period of five years. The two companies, however, contested this and said TRAI had, while lowering this fee to Rs 4, not considered their submissions.

“The cost analysis undertaken by TRAI was palpably flawed as it had not used the cost data of either of the MNP service providers,” the companies had said, adding that the telecom regulator had also disregarded the cost of software licensing while revising the price downwards.

Holding that the decision making process involved in the process was not transparent, a two judge bench of Justice Prateek Jalan and Justice Ravindra Bhat said that TRAI should have made further consultations before revising the charges downwards.

“TRAI has not been able to explain satisfactorily the rationale for a consideration of this nature, which would obviously lead to a lack of coherence in the calculations made,” the two judge bench said.


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