Reliance Jio to Delhi High Court: TRAI Held Free Offers as Legitimate

Reliance Jio (RJio) on Tuesday told Delhi High Court that telecom regulator TRAI has held that its free offers to subscribers was perfectly legitimate.

The submission was made before Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva when telecom major Vodafone India’s plea, alleging that RJio “blatantly violated” TRAI’s tariff orders, directions and regulations, came up for hearing.

Reliance Jio to Delhi High Court: TRAI Held Free Offers as Legitimate

Vodafone has claimed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) failed to prohibit RJio from violating the tariff orders by allowing it to continue with its free offers.

However, the court could not take up the matter on Tuesday and listed it for hearing on February 21, after it was informed that the same issue would be taken up by the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on February 20.

On February 20, TRAI has to clarify before TDSAT whether RJio had informed it and its subscribers of the two free offers – Jio Welcome Offer and Happy New Year Offer – being “distinct”.

The tribunal has sought the clarification after fresh appeals were filed by Airtel and Idea Cellular against TRAI’s January 31 decision giving a clean chit to Jio tariffs.

On February 1, the last date of hearing, TRAI had told the high court that it has taken a decision regarding the representations of various telecom service providers against the free offers of RJio and it would be communicated within a day to all of them.

Today, RJio told the court that its free offers “have been held as perfectly legitimate” by TRAI.

Vodafone, in its plea in the high court, has claimed that TRAI has not implemented its own circulars which lay down that all tariffs must be compliant of interconnection usage charges (IUC) and be non-discriminatory and non-predatory.

It had earlier argued before the court that each day’s delay by TRAI in implementing its tariff orders was causing a huge loss to the company.

RJio, on the other hand, had contended that on October 20 last year, TRAI had decided that its free offer from September 5, 2016 to December 3, 2016, was not non-compliant of IUC, not predatory and not discriminatory and this order had not been challenged by Vodafone.

Vodafone, in its plea, has sought direction to TRAI to “fully implement/ensure compliance of each and all regulatory and legal principles” laid down in the tariff orders, directions and regulations by the regulator or any other authority as well as to ensure that RJio does not violate them.

TRAI Shifts Deadline for Net Neutrality Comments to March 15

Telecom regulator TRAI on Tuesday extended the last date for comments on the contentious net neutrality by a month to March 15.

Telecom operators and Internet-based companies have been at loggerheads on the issue which is linked to providing preferential access to select customers.

TRAI Shifts Deadline for Net Neutrality Comments to March 15

“On request from the stakeholders, the last date for receipt of written comments, if any, from the stakeholders has been extended up to March 15, 2017, and counter comments by March 22, 2017,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India said in a statement.

Earlier, the last date for comments was February 15 and counter comments February 28.

The regulator has already conducted the first round of consultation to understand key issues that need to be looked at for framing rules around net neutrality.

The ongoing consultation process was initiated pursuant to reference from the Department of Telecom.

The regulator already conducted pre-consultation on the subject in mid-2016 where it discussed issues such as the definition of net neutrality, scope of traffic management practices, importance of unrestricted access and transparency, need for preserving customer privacy and national security.

A panel set up under DoT has proposed regulation of domestic calls on Internet-based apps like Skype, WhatsApp and Viber by putting them at par with services offered by telecom operators. The recommendation of the panel came under immediate attack from the public and industry bodies.

The DoT committee opposed platforms like Facebook’s Internet.org that allows access to certain websites without mobile data charges while suggesting that similar plans by Bharti Airtel be allowed with prior clearance from TRAI.

However, the committee suggested liberal approach to app-based international calls.

The government has said it will decide on a framework for net neutrality after getting recommendations of TRAI on the subject.

Though their is no standard definition of net neutrality, certain sections have described it as equal treatment be accorded to all Internet traffic and no priority be given to an entity or company based on payment to content or service providers such as telecom companies, which is seen as discriminatory.

TRAI has already firmed up regulation on discriminating content on the basis of tariff by barring platforms zero rating platforms.

The consultation paper on discriminatory tariff, which closed in January 2016, was the debated the most, which attracted comments from over 24 lakh people.

TRAI Forms Joint Panel to Identify Outdated Regulations

Telecom regulator TRAI has set up a joint committee consisting of industry representatives to examine and identify regulations and tariff orders that are out of sync with times.

TRAI Forms Joint Panel to Identify Outdated Regulations

“We have formed a joint committee with industry representatives, which will identify regulations and tariff orders that have become obsolete. The committee will give its advice to us, and we will take it up along with other issues that have been identified for this year,” TRAI Chairman R S Sharma told PTI.

The committee includes Ravi Gandhi (Bharti Airtel), Sundeep Kathuria (Vodafone India), Kapoor Singh Guliani (Reliance Jio Infocomm), Rahul Vatts (Idea Cellular), and Anil Verma (Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd) and is headed by Sanjeev Banzal, Advisor – Networks, Spectrum and Licensing, TRAI.

Explaining the mandate of the newly-formed committee, Sharma cited the example of paging services where related regulations may have become outdated or are no longer relevant.

“There are services that do not exist anymore… like the paging industry… so, those we should remove from the tariff orders and regulations… Similarly, there may be some regulations that relate to technology… maybe, the service remains, but the technology underlining the service has changed, but we still have regulations that bind the services and technology together… they need to be identified,” Sharma said.

Sharma also said the committee’s suggestions will be taken up by the regulator along with other issues identified for review in 2017.

TRAI will be carrying out public consultation in areas such as developing a new framework for tariffs in evolving the communication sector, next-generation public protection and disaster relief communication networks, review of national numbering plan, review of USO fund and exploring combining data from different sources.

Sources said TRAI has already written to committee members to provide, by the end of February, their initial inputs on obsolete regulations in the telecom sector.

BSNL Partners Tata Communications to Give Users 44 Million Wi-Fi Hotspots Abroad

With an eye on international roaming market, state-owned telecom firm BSNL has partnered with Tata Communications to provide its customers access to 44 million Wi-Fi hotspots globally at fixed prices starting Rs. 999.

BSNL Partners Tata Communications to Give Users 44 Million Wi-Fi Hotspots Abroad“BSNL is the first among the Indian mobile operators to have taken this big step forward towards how mobile subscribers use Wi-Fi internationally. We have partnered with Tata Communications to facilitate access to high-speed data service when our customers travel abroad. They will be able to access unlimited data on these hotspots at fixed cost,” BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava said.

The customers can activate the Wi-Fi plan through BSNL’s mobile application. The plans are priced at Rs. 999 for three days, Rs. 1,599 for 15 days and Rs. 1,999 for 30 days, inclusive of all other charges. The mobile application will also show location of Wi-Fi hotpsots.

“BSNL mobile subscribers can access Wi-Fi anywhere in the world without worrying about the bill shock when they get home and no longer have to limit their Internet usage while abroad,” Shrivastava said.

Customers will not need one-time password to connect with Wi-Fi after activating their plan.

BSNL has become the fourth-largest mobile service provider, up from the sixth position. The company leads in wirelines broadband service.

“Wi-Fi plus changes how subscribers experience Wi-Fi and simplifies how they get connected to the Internet and use their applications while travelling abroad. We are really proud of this partnership with BSNL and how it is delivering innovative mobile experiences to BSNL subscribers,” said Christopher Almeida, Senior Vice-President, Service Provider Group, Tata Communications.

Tata Communications has a global network of sub-marine cable and provides connectivity to telecom service providers across more than 240 countries and territories.

Reliance Jio's 1Gbps Broadband Service Being Tested: Here's What You Need to Know

In September, Reliance Jio’s broadband service was overshadowed by the launch of the company’s 4G services, though it was mentioned by Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani. Though not much was detailed about the Reliance Jio broadband fibre to the home (FTTH) wired network, called Reliance Jio GigaFiber, he did mention tests in Pune and Mumbai.

Reliance Jio's 1Gbps Broadband Service Being Tested: Here's What You Need to KnowDuring the launch, Ambani said that the Reliance Jio broadband’s FTTH network will offer network speeds of up to 1Gbps to subscribers. Hitting speeds of up to 1Gbps could result in Reliance Jio broadband users being able to download a movie within a matter of seconds.

While some residents in Mumbai have using the Reliance Jio broadband service, we’d like to inform our readers that the service in fact isn’t official and is still in its testing phase – you cannot call the company to request for a Reliance Jio broadband connection, unless it’s already in your area or building.

Reliance Jio broadband plans and price

For example, one of the residents a building in Walkeshwar Road in Mumbai told India Today, that the Reliance Jio broadband connection has been set up in the building and is being offered to some of the residents. Furthermore, while Reliance Jio broadband service had claimed to offer speeds of 1Gbps, users in that area have reportedly been getting speeds between 70Mbps to 100Mbps, which is still a big improvement over most people’s broadband connection.

Much like the Jio ‘Welcome Offer’, the Reliance Jio broadband service is said to be offered to users free for three months. The catch here is that users will have to pay Rs. 4,500 for installation and router. After the trial ends, Reliance Jio will collect the router and refund the money if the user doesn’t wish to continue with the broadband service.

The report further mentions that during this phase the Reliance Jio broadband service has a FUP limit of 100GB data at full speed every month. Post the usage of the data, the Reliance Jio broadband service’s speed will go way down to 1Mbps. As of now, nothing is known as to the nature of the Reliance Jio broadband plans that will be available post the trial period.

Reliance Jio broadband launch date

Reliance Jio broadband has been under extended trials for a while now and there’s no word on a commercial launch or wider availability of the free trials yet

Reliance Jio entered strongly competing against Airtel and Vodafone, among others, in the 4G sector. The company now looks to do the same in the broadband sector and one can expect the company to come with competitive plans.

Reliance Jio Interconnectivity Woes: TRAI Recommends Rs. 3,050 Crores Fine on Airtel, Vodafone, Idea

Reliance Jio Interconnectivity Woes: TRAI Recommends Rs. 3,050 Crores Fine on Airtel, Vodafone, Idea

  • Airtel, Vodafone, Idea accused of denying Jio interconnectivity
  • The trio are said to be non-compliant with licence conditions
  • Fine of Rs. 50 crores per telco per circle recommended to DoT

In a setback to incumbent telecom operators, sector regulator TRAI on Friday suggested imposing Rs. 3,050 crores penalty on Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea for allegedly denying interconnectivity to newcomer Reliance Jio.

TRAI, in its recommendation to the Department of Telecom, said it has found the trio to be non-compliant with licence conditions and service quality norms given the high rate of call failures and congestion at interconnectpoints for Reliance Jio.

It also noted that denial of interconnection by these operators to Reliance Jio “appears to be with the ulterior motive to stifle competition and is anti-consumer”.

As per TRAI’s recommendation, the penalty for Airtel and Vodafone works out to about Rs. 1,050 crores each, while in case of Idea Cellular it comes to about Rs. 950 crores. The regulator stopped short of recommending cancellation of their telecom licences saying it may lead to “significant consumer inconvenience”.

The recommendation came on complaint by Reliance Jio that over 75 percent of calls on its network are failing as incumbents were not giving sufficient points of interconnect that would help complete calls.

 

TRAI in a detailed letter to the DoT Secretary said the action of the three incumbent operators was “against public interest”.

When contacted, an Airtel spokesperson said, “We are continuously augmenting the PoIs provided to Reliance Jio and pace of augmentation has been the fastest ever done by us. Further we are in full compliance of the requirements of grade of service set by TRAI.”

Vodafone and Idea did not immediately offer any comment on the TRAI recommendation. Emails sent to Reliance Jio too remained unanswered.

Lashing out at the erring operators, TRAI went to the extent of saying that the non-compliance of licence terms and condition “warrants” recommendations for revocation of licence.

“However, the authority is mindful of the fact that revocation of the licence will entail significant consumer inconvenience and therefore in view of the larger public interest involved, the authority recommends a penal action of Rs. 50 crores per LSA (circle)…,” it said.

 

The regulator has recommended penalty of Rs. 50 crores each for 21 of the 22 circles of Bharti Airtel and Vodafone (except J&K).

In case of Idea, it has recommended penalty of Rs. 50 crores each for 19 circles where the operator provides services.

Jio has accused incumbent operators of providing less than required points of interconnections (PoIs) needed for its users to complete calls to rivals’ network, while operators charged the newcomer of unleashing a “tsunami” of free traffic on their networks.

Interconnection enables mobile users to make calls to customers of other telecom networks and is, therefore, crucial for smooth functioning of mobile services.

In a statement issued on September 23, Jio had alleged that over 12 crore calls failed daily between Jio and the networks of Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea.

 

As per quality of service rules, not more than five calls in 1,000 should fail due to network congestion.

Late last month, as row between incumbents and newcomer Reliance Jio escalated, TRAI intervened and issued show-cause notices to operators for call drops far exceeding the norm. It had given the incumbent operators ten days to explain why action should not be initiated against them for violation of service quality norms.

In its reply to TRAI, Idea said that the show cause notice is “defective, invalid, and premeditated” and reason for poor service quality is solely because of Reliance Jio. Airtel said that the notice was premature and it is making effort to augment interconnection.

Vodafone cited inconsistent calculation made by Jio and delay on its part among reason for the row.

The regulator has given a deadline of October 17, 2016, to mobile operators to resolve the matter so that customers do not experience poor quality of service.

TRAI has observed high level of congestion in telecom networks leading to call failure on Reliance Jio’s network.

 

Reliance Jio Plans: BSNL Says Will Match Tariff-by-Tariff

Reliance Jio Plans: BSNL Says Will Match Tariff-by-Tariff
BSNL says will match competition “tariff-by-tariff”
Reliance Jio announced its plans last week
BSNL announced a plan at less than Re 1/ GB
Reliance Jio shook the telecom market by introducing plans that include free voice calling, free national roaming, and data at fraction of the cost of incumbents. It was expected that other telcos will follow suit, and at least one of them is getting ready to take Jio head on – and the name might come as a surprise.

State-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. on Tuesday termed Reliance Jio’s entry into the market as a “challenge” for all operators, but said it expects to match the intense competition “tariff-by-tariff”.

 

BSNL Chairman and Managing Director Anupam Shrivastava told PTI that the telecom PSU will adopt an aggressive stance on tariffs going forward.

 
BSNL, which unveiled a promotional unlimited wireline broadband plan that effectively translates into less than Re. 1 per GB download cost for very high usage subscribers, a day after Reliance Jio made public its 4G plans – believes it is in a position to match Reliance Jio’s tariffs successfully.

 

“It is a question of survival in the market… there is no other way but to match Jio, tariff by tariff. If tariff of Jio is aggressive, the tariff of BSNL and of all other operators is also going to be aggressive,” Shrivastava said.

 

Terming RJio’s entry as a “challenge for all operators”, Shrivastava said competition is good for consumers as it ushers better offerings.

“As far as challenge is concerned, we cannot wish it away… I believe, BSNL is in a position to match Reliance Jio’s tariffs most successfully, because we are incumbent operator. We are landline and optical fibre operator so our broadband tariff rides on our own network… We don’t have to start procuring, investing and then come out with offerings,” he said.

On whether Reliance Jio’s entry would also prompt BSNL into announcing more aggressive tariffs, Shrivastava replied in affirmative saying “absolutely, there is no doubt”.

BSNL offers unlimited night calling on any network in the country between 9 pm to 7 am as complimentary service for all its landline customers. Last month, it announced that its landline subscribers will be able to make free unlimited calls on any mobile or landline number in the country on Sundays.

BSNL has also announced a national unlimited 3G mobile data plan for Rs. 1,099 and doubled the data usage limit in some existing plans, to counter competition in the market.

Asked if BSNL too would consider giving free voice calls for its mobile subscribers, Shrivastava said, “We will think about it… in the next 2-3 months, we will see the impact of what is happening in the market. We could consider giving voice free, from our network but after charging some fixed monthly rate… Fixed-mobile convergence may be the basis of free voice calls.”

US Lifts Export Curbs on ZTE

US Lifts Export Curbs on ZTE

The US Department of Commerce is expected this week to lift export curbs it imposed on Chinese telecom equipment and smartphone maker ZTE Corp for alleged Iran sanctions violations.

“The relief would be temporary in nature and would be maintained only if ZTE is abiding by its commitments to the US Government,” according to a senior official at the agency.

The Commerce Department restrictions imposed earlier this month made it difficult for ZTE to acquire US components by requiring its suppliers to apply for an export license before shipping any American-made equipment or parts to ZTE.

The department had said the license applications generally would be denied.

Shenzhen-based ZTE has been “in active, constructive discussions” with the Commerce Department for the past week, according to a senior official at the agency.

“As part of the effort to resolve the matter, and based upon binding commitments that ZTE has made to the US government, Commerce expects this week to be able to provide temporary relief from some licensing requirements,” the official said.

The details of the commitments are expected to be published this week in the US Federal Register.

ZTE was not immediately available for comment outside regular office hours.

Big hit
ZTE is among the largest companies that the Commerce Department has hit with a near-total export ban, according to public records.

It is the No. 4 smartphone vendor in the United States, with a 7 percent market share, behind Apple Inc,Samsung Electronics Co and LG Electronics Inc, according to research firm IDC. It sells handset devices to three of the four largest US mobile carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile US and Sprint Corp.

The export restrictions have drawn protests from the Chinese government and rocked ZTE’s business.

Its shares have not traded on the Hong Kong stock exchange for the past two weeks. The company also said last week it was delaying the publication of its annual results while it assesses the impact of Washington’s action.

ZTE also said it would postpone its board meeting. Its shares last closed at HK$14.16, prior to a trading suspension on March 7.

Goldman Sachs suspended its coverage on ZTE, saying there was not enough information to determine an investment rating, price target and earnings estimates for the company.

Since coming under fire in 2012 for alleged deals with sanctions-hit Iran and possible links to the Chinese government and military, ZTE has ramped up its spending on Washington lobbyists.

It spent $5.1 million (roughly Rs. 33.9 crores) in the last four years, up from $212,000 (roughly Rs. 1.5 crores) in 2011, as it sought to assuage national security concerns, according to publicly available lobbying records maintained by Congress.

The Commerce Department investigated ZTE for alleged export-control violations following Reuters reports in 2012 that the company had signed contracts to ship millions of dollars worth of American-made hardware and software to Iran’s largest telecoms carrier.

DoT May Not Auction All 700MHz Spectrum At Once

DoT May Not Auction All 700MHz Spectrum At Once

The Department of Telecom (DoT) is unlikely to auction the entire spectrum in 700MHz as it feels telecom operators may not bid aggressively for the band, due to high reserve price.

Also, a DoT committee has found some anomalies regarding the base price suggested by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), which the committee says requires further clarification.

According to a DoT official, the committee has already prepared its report, which will be discussed by the Telecom Commission in its meeting scheduled for March 28. The official said the DoT committee is of the view that all the available spectrum in 700MHz should not be put up for auction as it might not get sold.

The DoT is soon going to write back to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for clarifications on a host of issues regarding the upcoming spectrum auction, the official added.

Trai in its spectrum pricing recommendations for the next auction had suggested a record base price of Rs. 11,000 crores per MHz on all-India basis. Spectrum in 700MHz is considered more economical for providing telephony services compared to other bands like 900MHz or 1800MHz. However, analysts feel given the evolving ecosystem around the new bands and steep pricing, they expect limited participation from the telecom companies in the upcoming spectrum auctions.

Ratings firm ICRA expects spectrum worth Rs. 60,000-80,000 crores to be sold in this auction, which would add to the already sizeable debt levels of the industry.

Trai has suggested a plan for spectrum sale, expected to be held in July, which has a potential to fetch Rs. 5.36 lakh crores. It will be the biggest-ever auction in terms of value and is more than double the gross revenue of the telecom services industry.

Telecom service providers had a gross revenue of Rs. 2.54 lakh crores in 2014-15.

According to Trai paper, the cost of delivering mobile services in 700MHz band is approximately 70 percent lower than 2100 MHz frequency, which is widely used for 3G services.

Net Neutrality Stance to Be Finalised in a Couple of Months

Net Neutrality Stance to Be Finalised in a Couple of Months: Trai

The Indian telecom regulator is hopeful that it will be able to finalise views on net neutrality in a couple of months.

“The DoT (Department of Telecom) has sought comprehensive view from us on net neutrality. It should be done in a couple of months,” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) chairman R.S. Sharma said in New Delhi on Tuesday.

He was speaking on the sidelines of CASBAA India Forum.

A month ago, the Trai ruled against Facebook’s Free Basics programme, upholding net neutrality and leaving a level playing field for all players.

“No service provider shall offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content,” the Trai had said in a much-awaited regulatory order on discriminatory pricing of data content.

“No service provider shall enter into any arrangement, agreement or contract, by whatever name called, with any person, natural or legal, that has the effect of discriminatory tariffs for data services being offered or charged to the consumer on the basis of content,” the watchdog had said.

Telecom regulator Trai last week said it will comply with the Supreme Court order asking it to consider the technical aspects of calls drops and if regulations on penalty could be amended.

“Whatever has been ordered by the Supreme Court shall be complied with,” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Chairman R S Sharma said.

Earlier last week, the Supreme Court asked the regulator to consider the papers dealing with technical aspects of call drops and apprise it of its stand on whether it could consider amending regulations to impose penalty on telecom firms.