Telco wars: Govt to work without bias, says minister


The meeting of the industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) with the telecom minister Manoj Sinha and telecom secretary J S Deepak on Friday may have been inconclusive, but it raised some hope of resolution of issues relating to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) bias towards new entrants and the nature of Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited’s test trail.Talking to the media after the meeting, Rajan S Mathews, director general of COAI, said it was premature to say whether the discussion was satisfactory. “We have to be satisfied with the result. No commitment was made (by the minister or secretary)”.He, however, said the minister and secretary gave them a good ear but subtly expressed their disapproval on the industry body taking on the telecom watchdog.“He (the minister) listened to us and then said that (accusing Trai of being biased towards new entrants) was not the right thing (to do). It’s the government talking about government, what else can you expect?” said Mathews.Since the beginning of this week, the COAI, which represents legacy GSM players like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone, Idea Cellular and others, has waged a war against Reliance Jio as it accused Trai of coming out with consultation papers that were tailored for the benefit of the Mukesh Ambani-owned telecom service provider, which has yet to launch its commercial operations.Jio’s test trial, which began in December last year, is expected to end by the end of this month.The industry body has accused Jio of masquerading “full-blown and full-fledged services” as test trials as they squabbled over access to point of interconnection (PoI), where calls connect.Post meeting, the telecom minister reportedly said that the government would “work without any bias or discrimination” against anyone.”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 prime most,” Sinha told the media after his interaction with incumbent telcos.Mathews said the legacy operators and RJIL were now waiting to see how the issues were resolved by the regulator and the department of telecom (DoT).He said they had lost all faith in Trai because of their past experiences with it.“We came through a rather bruising interaction with the Trai (on the call drop issue). We are not ready for another one,” said Mathews.COAI has also sought a meeting with the principal secretary to the Prime Minister Nripendra Misra to discuss the issues and some of its members have challenged Trai’s decision to do away with interconnect charges for landline call in the court.

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