Trai issues new interconnection rules, fixes 30-day deadline for inking pacts
New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has issued new guidelines that require telecom operators to sign an interconnection agreement on a non-discriminatory basis within 30 days of receipt of a network connectivity request from a rival service provider.
The new rules formulated by Trai also provide for a penalty of a maximum of Rs1 lakh a day per circle for operators that violate these rules. There are 22 telecom circles in the country and most top operators are now present in all of them.
The regulations, effective 1 February, assume significance since there were no clear guidelines on the time frame for entering into such network connectivity pacts.
In addition, the previous interconnect agreement rules did not provide for any penalties on defaulting operators.
Interconnection means the commercial and technical arrangements under which service providers connect their equipment, network and services for the benefit of customers across their networks.
Point of interconnect (PoI) is a mutually agreed point of demarcation where the exchange of traffic between the two operators takes place.
After it started commercial services in September 2016, Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, the telecom arm of Reliance Industries Ltd, complained to the regulator that a majority of calls on its network were failing as rival operators were not providing sufficient PoIs.
The other operators had then said the free voice calls offered by Reliance Jio had led to a “tsunami” of traffic on their networks.
Trai had in May defended its earlier stand to recommend to the department of telecommunications the imposition of a cumulative fine of Rs3,050 crore on Bharti Airtel Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd and Vodafone India Ltd for allegedly denying PoIs to Reliance Jio.
Trai had recommended this penalty as it believed that the three operators had violated the licence agreement which mandates that the licensee will be responsible for maintaining the quality of service and any violation is liable to be treated as breach of terms and conditions of the licence.
The department of telecommunications is currently meeting Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone India to decide on this matter.
Trai does not have penal powers and can only recommend penalties for violation of regulations.
The new rules also outline a framework for provisioning and augmenting of interconnectivity ports, laying down a step-by-step process for provisioning of such ports.
“For a period of two years from the date of establishment of initial interconnection, the service provider, who made the request for entering into interconnection agreement, shall seek ports at PoI from the other service provider to meet the demand of incoming and outgoing traffic at the PoI,” Trai said.
“At the end of two years from the date of establishment of initial interconnection or on 1 February, 2018, whichever is later, the total ports existing at a PoI shall be converted for carrying one way traffic in such a manner that the number of ports for sending the outgoing traffic of each service provider to the other service provider are in proportion to their outgoing traffics averaged over a period of preceding three months,” Trai added.
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