Stiff fine for telcos violating new Trai interconnect rules

New Delhi:Regulator Trai has tightened the network connectivity rules by mandating a 30-day deadline for telecom companies to ink interconnection pacts on a non-discriminatory basis and also fixed a daily penalty of up to Rs 1 lakh per service area for violations.

The ‘Telecom Interconnection Regulations 2018’ of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai), come into force from February 1 and assume significance as newcomer Reliance Jio and incumbent telecom operators have, in the past, clashed over network connectivity issues and inadequate ports.

 

At the time of launch of its services in 2016, the new entrant had accused large and established operators such as Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular of not giving it sufficient points of interconnect (PoIs) leading to massive call failures on its network, even as the incumbents had blamed free calls offered by Jio for “tsunami” of network traffic.

The telecom regulator has now stipulated a penalty of up to Rs 1 lakh per day per service area for operators who violate its latest interconnect rules. Trai has also said “every service provider shall, within 30 days of receipt of request from a service provider, enter into interconnection agreement, on non- discriminatory basis, with such service provider”.

The regulator has fixed five days for service providers to respond to interconnection seekers with a draft interconnect pact. So far, there was no explicit timeline for inking of interconnect agreements. Trai, has also laid down a “formula” that will act as a ceiling for “bank guarantees” in case of interconnection, instead of the current practice of such guarantees being worked out through mutual negotiation between operators.

For provisioning of ports at the points of interconnect (point of exchange of network traffic), the regulator has fixed 30-day time-frame instead of the 90 days earlier.

“The interconnection charges such as set-up charges and infrastructure charges may be mutually negotiated between service providers subject to the regulations or directions issued by the authority… provided that such charges are reasonable, transparent and non-discriminatory,” Trai said in its interconnect regulations.

The regulations will apply to all service providers offering telecom services in India, Trai said in a statement.

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