New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday gave a three-month extension to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for formulating a new Interconnection Usage Charge (IUC) regime.
Interconnection charges refer to the fee paid by a telco to complete a call on another telco’s network. Trai is currently considering whether there is a need for such a regime given the cost to carry a call is negligible because of a decline in tariffs.
Some of the new operators have been lobbying for the removal of the present interconnection regime and move to a ‘bill and keep” method, where the operator on whose network the call originates does not have to share the revenue from that call with the operator where the call terminates.
A three-member bench headed by chief justice S.H. Kapadia allowed the plea of the Trai seeking more time for a new IUC regime.
On 4 February, the Supreme Court had given Trai four months to come up with recommendations on the charges.
Meanwhile, Trai on Friday faced intense opposition from GSM-based phone operators in the court for not including capital expenditure, or capex, while determining a new IUC. They said that the regulator was not acting fairly.
Senior advocates Harish Salve and A.M. Singhvi appearing for Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Essar Ltd, respectively, said Trai should add capex and opex (operating expenditure) data before arriving at new recommendations.
Trai had requested the apex court to “grant suitable direction regarding the procedure and method to be followed in an application filed last month, while also requesting a further three months’ extension for framing IUC regulations.
In May, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had dismissed the plea filed by Vodafone, which opposed some of the questions incorporated in the IUC consultation paper of Trai.
On 4 February, the apex court had directed Trai to frame the IUC regulations afresh according to the directions of TDSAT.
TDSAT had on 29 September set aside the Trai’s Interconnection Usage Charges (Regulation) 2009 and asked the regulator to bring out fresh regulations in consultations with various stakeholders.
The next hearing in the case will be on 29 July.
PTI contributed to the story