BSNL’s app-based calling service challenged in Trai
New Delhi: Telecom firms under the Cellular Operator Association of India (COAI) have approached the telecom regulator against state-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd’s (BSNL) new limited fixed mobile telephony services.
BSNL’s limited fixed mobile telephony service is an app-based calling service that virtually turns mobiles into cordless phone working in sync with landlines to make and receive calls within home premises.
The COAI has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to intervene and direct BSNL to withdraw the new service saying that the service, although being marketed as “distinct”, is “in-principle same version of their fixed mobile telephony (FMT) services” which was launched last year and subsequently withdrawn.
The operators—all except Reliance Jio, which COAI said has divergent views—have further said that the new service is disguised as a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) service and violation of numbering plan and breach of licence conditions.
In its letter to Trai, COAI has also alleged that the BSNL’s service represents evasion and bypass of Interconnect Usage Charges (IUC) in form of termination charges. “We understand that the new service will use fixed line Caller Line Identification for making calls from mobiles and currently no termination charges are applicable for calls to and from fixed line in terms of Trai’s prevailing IUC regulation,” COAI said.
If the service is allowed to continue, other operators with landline number series may also start using the methodology for saving on IUC, leading to major revenue implications, COAI has argued. “In light of the serious concerns ... we request your kind intervention in issuing an immediate direction to BSNL for withdrawing this app-based calling service,” COAI has said.
While launching the new service in mid-January, BSNL had stated that the latest limited Fixed Mobile Telephony (FMT) service is “different” from the contentious Fixed Mobile Telephony service it had announced last year. The PSU was subsequently forced to put on hold the service following opposition from cellular operators.
BSNL chairman Anupam Shrivastava had then said that while the earlier service allowed customers on roaming in India and overseas to connect their landlines through mobile and make calls through them, the new service is restricted within the home premises.
“Landline subscribers find it inconvenient to fetch the contact details from mobiles and then dial the number on fixed line ... This service will turn mobile handset into a cordless device within the home premises, which means that customers can still avail the attractive landline tariffs of BSNL,” Shrivastava had said then.