TRAI Archives — Page 2 of 3


All submarine cables connecting the Far East with Europe and Africa transit at India. It has made 12 submarine cables (six owned by consortiums and six privately-owned) hopping into 10 cable landing stations (CLS) at the Indian seashore. Voice and data traffic of 27 international long distance operators (ILDO) are processed through the 10 CLS. Four (Tata, Airtel, Reliance and BSNL) out of the 27 ILD providers own respective CLS in India. The ILDOs who don’t own CLS told TRAI that Tata Communication and Bharti Airtel together enjoy a 93% market share.
LIRNEasia contributed to a set of broadband quality rules that TRAI formulated in 2009. They dealt with contention ratios being maintained at certain levels and being periodically published. There is no mention of those rules in the report in the Hindu Businessline, which focuses on response times to complaints. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India proposes to collect a penalty of Rs 50,000 from operators if they violate any of the set quality norms for broadband services. The penalty will increase to Rs 1 lakh for the second violation.
The Indian Journal of Law and Technology in association with the Centre for Internet and Society (IJLT-CIS) , Bangalore is organising the 3rd IJLT-CIS Lecture Series at the National Law School of India University, Bangalore. The lecture series will be spread out over the course of the year and will include eminent speakers who will talk with the students and other interested persons on their topics of expertise. Rohan Samarajiva, Chair and CEO of LIRNEasia will deliver the inaugural lecture on Tariff Regulation in South Asia. Tariff regulation has in the recent past attracted the attention of both the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India as well as the Telecom  Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal, as well as the Department of Telecom at the Union Ministry of Communications. India has a burgeoning and competitive cellular services provider market, and tariff regulation has far-reaching impact on this industry.
It has been an unfortunate fact that Sri Lanka and India have signed many agreements that have not been implemented. This caused me to write a column some years back entitled “An MOU to implement MOUs.”. The one difference that I see in the short LBO report on cooperation between India and Sri Lanka on telecom is that the word MOU has been replaced by agreement. But I hope I am wrong and that there will be real implementation.
We got into roaming because TRAI asked us to. This was just after the SAARC Summit in Colombo in 2008. I thought there’d be more talk about roaming since another SAARC talkfest just ended. But looks like TRAI has decided the neighborhood is not worth the trouble. They want cheap roaming in Europe.
At the opening, Sunil Bharti Mittal had announced that Airtel was raising prices. And I was the lead on the panel of tariff regulation on the second day. I was ready for fireworks, but it was sedate. Only spark was on why roaming prices were not regulated. I first talked about where prices levels were: South Asia with the lowest prices for voice (Bangladesh was the cheapest, though many Indians insist they are).
My colleague who made the previous post had neglected to look at the cause of the so-called spike in inactive SIMs. The cause is a change in definition, plain and simple. The market revaluation has been triggered by rule changes in the activity period allowed for prepaid users and the effect of mandatory SIM registration. Previously, users would see their services terminated if they had not recharged their prepaid cards or placed/received a call within a period of 180 days. In 2010, that period was reduced to 90 days and, recently, the TRAI has reportedly reduced the period to just 20 days.
  According the LIRNEasia’s 2011 Telecom Regulatory Environment (TRE) survey, stakeholders in India, Pakistan and Indonesia have identified the telecom regulatory environments in their countries as improved since 2008, the last time the survey was carried out.   In contrast, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the Philippines have seen the regulatory environments decline in effectiveness, while Thailandremains more-or-less the same. The TRE Survey asks senior level stakeholders to evaluate the effectiveness of the telecom regulatory environment in the fixed, mobile and broadband subsectors along a Lickert scale of 1 to 5 (1 being highly ineffective and 5 being highly effective, with the mid-point of 3 being considered average performance).  Seven different dimensions of regulation (market entry, tariff regulation, interconnection, universal service, anti-competitive-practices, quality of service) are evaluated by the stakeholders.    This year, 349 responded participated in the 7 countries.

Kneejerk response on roaming reforms

Posted on February 28, 2011  /  0 Comments

We were dragged into work on roaming by the SATRC. Our focus was on intra-SAARC call charges, but the then Chairman of SATRC, Mr Nripendra Mishra of TRAI wanted to act on both. So we started. We were more interested in intra-SAARC call charges because it affects more people, and more at the BOP. But looking at roaming prices, one cannot but be outraged.
The first keynote address at the CEO Conclave organized by Voice and Data included an announcement that India’s National Broadband Plan will be released in a few weeks.  Dr. J.S. Sarma, the Chair of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, said in addition that optical fiber will reach every Panchayat with more than 500 people.
To learn about the state of broadband in Sri Lanka, one has to rely on the media and on company releases, not the normal source which is the Ministry or regulatory agency. Today LBO carried the following story: Sri Lanka Telecom, the island’s largest fixed access operator said it had added 80,000 new broadband customers in 2010 and its base of 200,000 customers was 70 percent of the market. About 20 percent of the operator’s wireline customers were now using its ADSL (asymmetric digital subscriber line) services, the telco said in a statement. From the above we can conclude that Sri Lanka has roughly 286,000 broadband subscriptions. We have no idea whether this number includes those using dongles, or simply those who subscribed to the “fixed wireless” options provided by LankaCom, Dialog etc.
Payal Malik, LIRNEasia’s Senior Research Fellow resident in India, has written an op-ed analyzing the spectrum mess in India and proposing that it be cleaned up in tandem with license renewals that are coming up. Pakistan used the opportunities afforded by license renewals to clean up some policy mistakes made prior to 2004. We hope to feature a piece by a person involved in that process shortly, in an Indian newspaper and/or here. However, there is one window of possibility of cleaning this pricing conundrum. Very soon, many licences will be coming up for renewal.

How broad is your broadband?

Posted on November 25, 2009  /  1 Comments

Based on LIRNEasia’s broadband QoSE research findings, we ran an advertisement in the Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka’s leading English daily) on 24 November 2009.  The advertisement focused on four facts. The first three were on value for money, advertised download speed as opposed to actual download speed and bandwidth bottlenecks.  The lack of regulation on contention ratios (how many users per “channel”) was highlighted as the fourth fact We pointed out that LIRNEasia’s recommendation about imposing contention ratios of 1:20 (Business) and 1:50 (Residential) had been adopted by the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), with minor changes.  TRAI mandates contention ratios of 1:30 for Business and 1:50 for Residential.

TRAI Chair visits LIRNEasia

Posted on November 23, 2009  /  1 Comments

TRAI Chair Dr J.S. Sarma, Principal Advisor Mr N. Parameswaran and Advisor (Convergence) Mr S.K.
“I can’t imagine how and based on what measure TRAI set 256kbps internet connection as broadband. It’s very difficult for users to work with this speed. Please don’t compare Bangladesh and Sri Lanka while setting standard for India.” This was how a reader responded when Indian Express online carried a story on the dissemination of the findings of LIRNEasia’s broadband research at the GRT Grand Hotel convention centre in Chennai on November 3. Another story in ‘The Hindu’ quoted Timothy Gonsalves PhD, Head of Computer Science and Engineering Department, IIT-Madras, our research partner from IIT Madras saying the implication [of the latency introduced by complex routing of network traffic] for consumers is that though a user may get close to the speeds advertised by the operator while accessing servers within India, the download speeds from an international server for even a supposedly fast broadband connection would only be in the 200 kbps range.
A little bit of authoritarianism from a government can sometimes be a good thing – especially if it means getting your country’s telecoms industry in working order. That sentiment goes against the grain, but when you contrast the telecoms regulations in the region’s megamarkets of China and India, you can hardly help but conclude that the iron fist is preferable to the velvet glove when it comes to delivering clear-cut regulatory outcomes. India is praised for being the world’s largest democracy, but there is little doubt that its admirable ethos of allowing every man to have a say on every issue – including critical regulatory ones – is holding back its telecoms market in many respects. If there is one industry that needs a fast-moving regulatory process in which decisions are handed down smoothly and with minimum delay, it is the telecoms industry. Few industries can compare to the telecoms industry, where technologies are constantly evolving and competition in a country can be seriously compromised if a regulator does not ensure a timely and orderly deployment of new services, such as 3G or high-speed broadband.