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Interconnect Impasse Ends, TRAI Asked to Expedite

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VoicenData Bureau
New Update

The cellular operators have agreed to interconnect with WLL operators finally, thanks to the intervention of Pramod Mahajan, Minister Communications & Information Technology. The interconnection would now work out on a set of interim tariff structure, or be billed according to the IUC recommendations, once they come into force, Sunil Mittal, Chief Executive of Bharti, speaking on behalf of the industry informed the media. 

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Mahajan met the cellular industry members, represented by Sunil Mittal of Bharti, Chandrasekhar of BPL Mobile, and Asim Ghose of Hutch, among others, for one and a half hours. Apart from the sizzling interconnect dilemma, other smaller issues like spectrum management also touched upon in the meeting.

Keeping with his stance of ‘promoting affordable cellular service in the country,’ Mahajan has assured the cellular industry that he would look into their issues for a level playing field on an urgent basis, as also request TRAI to come up with a just interconnect regime. As far as the definition of the ‘level playing field’ was concerned, Mahajan said that it boiled down to the issues of access charges and entry fees. "There are no other causes for concern," he clarified. 

In another interesting development, TRAI has promised that it would come up with the IUC report by this week. However, TRAI representation was conspicuous by its absence in the discussions. In a couple of hours, Mahajan has solved what TRAI had made an apparent mess of. Does this not point fingers at the regulating authority’s credibility? "No," said Mahajan. "There is a regulator and that does not mean I cannot have an informal chat with the industry. It would have been interference if I had started dictating the IUC terms," he added.

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Following the discussions, Mittal, speaking on behalf of the cellular industry representatives, informed that the pending case with TDSAT on the interconnect issue will soon be withdrawn. However, addressing the media, Chandrasekhar said that the cellular industry still stood against the CDMA regime principally, as has been their stance ever since WLL (M) was opened up. And the GSM-CDMA war being currently fought out in Supreme Court is still very much on. 

Both while addressing the SUPERCOMM, and during the media briefing, Mahajan made it abundantly clear that he was aware of MTNL blocking calls made from cellular phones and was principally in favor of the ‘tit for tat’, for a larger good.

"Arbitrarily blocking calls is not the solution. There is a legal grievance redressal mechanism which has to be followed," he said. He also made his displeasure with the cellular operators felt, stating that GSM or CDMA was a matter of choice, and the respective players had chosen to be in their respective technology space. It may be recalled that MTNL in Delhi (not in other circles) had started blocking calls made from a mobile connection. The inconvenience caused to the mobile subscribers can be dubbed as one of the decisive factors that clinched the deal in the favor of interconnection.

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Addressing the inaugural session of the SUPERCOMM 2003, earlier during the day, Mukesh D Ambani, chairman and managing director, Reliance Industries, at an oblique reference at the interconnect war said that connecting the people was a priority, and the industry should be connected among the different players in terms of strategy, thoughts and plans and then interconnect. "It is sensible to have a small share of a large pie, rather than a large share of a small pie," he summed up.

Addressing the same forum, Mahajan thanked the private sector for its investment and the boom in telecom. "The government might not have spent a single rupee for the current connectivity scenario, but one has to acknowledge that the government has been proactive in terms of the right policy and strategies," he said.

(CNS)

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