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Govt does not work with bias: Sinha

Govt does not work with bias: minister to sparring telcos


Government on Friday assured telecom operators of working without any bias as a section of players met Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha to express concerns over the regulator Trai’s "unfair" policies.

Industry heavyweights, including Bharti Airtel’s Gopal Vittal, Vodafone India’s Sunil Sood and Himanshu Kapania of Idea Cellular met Sinha as well as Telecom Secretary J S Deepak on Friday.

Cellular operators have accused Trai of adopting "unfair" policies to favour new entrants.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, the Minister said, "COAI delegation came to meet me and they have expressed some concerns. I told them that Government does not work with bias…Our work is not to stop anyone or allow anyone… For us, consumer is the prime most."

"The telecom sector’s history has been glorious and it has been a success story, and the industry will continue to grow in future as well. Government will work without any bias or discrimination," he said.

The Minister and the Secretary are also understood to have told the operators that a fight between the players and regulator does not augur well for the sector.

"We understand the point, and going forward this is not the way we would like to resolve it," COAI Director General Rajan S Mathews, who was present at the meeting, said.

The operators are hopeful of meeting the PMO but have clarified that, for now, they do not intend to approach Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal on the matter.

Mathews said DoT has assured that it will ask TRAI to clarify "grey areas" like requirements of testing, the duration that such tests should last and test protocols to be followed, and resolve the outstanding issue.

Mathews pointed out that TRAI’s move to review the call connect charges would be detrimental right ahead of the spectrum auctions.

The cellular operators’ body has been up in arms over Trai’s paper on call connect charges and has questioned the regulator’s urgency in initiating the interconnect review, claiming that it "favours new entrants".

"The top 3-4 operators collectively make Rs 8,000 crore from the termination charges on a net basis. All of sudden, if that stream of interconnect revenue goes away, then it brings uncertainity," Mathews said.

COAI, which has members including Bharti Airtel, Idea and Vodafone and incidentally also RJio, on August 8, wrote to the DoT demanding that RJio immediately stop all connections provided to 1.5 million users because it allegedly bypassed regulations by offering full-fledged services under the guise of test connections.

RJio struck back saying COAI’s charges were "malicious, unfounded, ill-informed, and frivolous and are contrary to actual facts" and was "promoting the vested interests of the incumbent dominant operators".

Mathews on Friday argued that in most cases, operators conduct the tests in their own network without "pushing the load to someone elses’ network".