Trai hits back; terms COAI's allegation of bias 'baseless'

Hitting back at cellular operators over allegations of 'bias', the regulator Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) on Tuesday said it will continue to work with regard to consumer protection, fair play and growth of the industry.

"The allegations of bias against Trai are baseless," Trai Chairman R S Sharma said.

Sharma's comments come a day after cellular operators' body COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) termed the regulator's recent consultation on call connect charges as "unfair" on incumbent operators and alleged that Trai's discussion paper was an indicator of "bias creeping in".

"Trai will continue to work in the areas in which it is mandated to work...We will continue to perform functions assigned in the Trai Act, with regard to consumer protection, Quality of Service, encouraging competition, fair play and growth of industry," Sharma said.

COAI had questioned the regulator's urgency in initiating the process of interconnect review, which the association claimed "favours new entrants".

"We have sought a meeting with the Telecom Minister and the Telecom Secretary so that the matter can be debated in a transparent manner," COAI director general Rajan Mathews said on Tuesday.

Last week, Trai started the review of interconnection charges- paid by one telecom operator to another for connecting phone calls - against the backdrop of 4G and Internet telephony changing the way consumers communicate.

At present, the termination charges for a mobile to mobile local and national long distance call is pegged at 14 paise per minute while the termination charges for international incoming call to wireless and wireline stands at 53 paise per minute.

Trai has sought public view on how domestic termination charges should be computed - cost based or Bill and Keep (BAK) - for maximisation of consumer welfare, adoption of more efficient technologies and growth of telecom sector.

In BAK method, each telecom operator bills its own subscribers for outgoing traffic that it sends to other interconnecting network and keeps the revenue received from its subscribers.

Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) had accused Trai of trying to introduce 'Bill and Keep' method, saying that such a move would mean that new operators would not have to pass on payment to existing operators, while the latter will have to 'incur costs'.

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