No Unfair Tactics Please

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

National long-distance (NLD) and international long-distance (ILD) telephony

have been opened for competition. And a number of players like the Bharati’s

India ONE are entering the fray. These companies negotiate interconnection

agreements with the basic telephone companies–BSNL, MTNL and the P-telcos–so

that their customers can reach the long-distance/Internet gateways. They pay

charges to the carrier companies for hauling the call from the customer premises

to the gateways and vise-versa.


Now, customers already chose as to which telco, BSNL/MTNL or the private

basic telephone companies or the cellular companies should give them the

telephone service. Similarly, it is they who should have the benefit of choice

as far as their long-distance/international carrier is concerned. The telephone

companies must honor and implement the customer’s choice

whether it is on a call basis or for a period. If this involves any technical

work at the exchange, the companies may levy a reasonable charge, but at all

times they must allow the customer to choose as to with which

long-distance/international company their calls should to be placed. DoT, the

licenser, and TRAI must make this very clear. The choice should be for the

customer and not for the telco that gives him the telephone.

Dr Th Chowdary

The communi-cations ministry must overcome its obsession to protect the revenue interests of state-held companies, and promote the fair and legitimate interests of all the companies


The NLD and ILD companies must also be free to carry customers’

national/international calls from their premises to the gateway. For these

calls, the customers are those who make calls, not the access providing telcos.

The NLD/ILD operators should be free to deploy point-to-multipoint radio in

whichever city they have sizable long-distance traffic. This will avoid their

paying to the local telephone companies. The savings could be passed on to

customers. Nine cities in the country produce about 50 percent of the NLD

traffic and about 80 percent of the international traffic. Here, the NLD/ILD

companies can use this method of direct pick-up from PABXs and LANs to their


In the US, AT&T was broken up in 1984 and made only an interstate and

international carrier. Then the regional bell operating companies (RBOCs)

collected access fees for haulage of the long-distance calls from their

customers to the gateway of the long-distance carriers like AT&T, MCI and

Sprint. As the RBOCs were charging too much, AT&T soon looked for

alternatives. A new class of companies called competitive access providers (CAPs)

emerged. They connected large traffic-generating companies directly to the

gateway of the long-distance telephone companies. Also, AT&T acquired cable

TV companies so that customers’ homes could be connected over the cable TV

facilities to its gateways. It also deployed wireless to pick up customer

directly to the long-distance companies. It is this type of customer-oriented

competition and regulation that is continuously bringing down telephone charges.

This is what we should demand from DoT and TRAI.

Anything that the incumbents–largely BSNL and MTNL–do to restrict or

delay customer welfare and emergence of full competition that can drive prices

toward costs, must be discouraged and put down.


In telecommunications, there can be no multiplicity of suppliers ie

competition unless the networks are interconnected. The former monopolists in

India–BSNL and MTNL–like their counterparts elsewhere in the world, always

resist interconnection; not by direct simple denial but in many subtle ways like

"not here, not now, not in this quantity, not at this cost or not with your

type of equipment." This is just like nations obstructing free trade by

imposing quantitative and qualitative restrictions. When France wanted to

discourage and price out Japanese imports of consumer electronics, it did not

ban them but said that all of them had to be subjected to customs inspection in

a place somewhere in the Alps, far from all airports as well as seaports. The

state-owned incumbents, in relation to the emerging NLD and international long

distance competitors, are exhibiting just that. This can only be explained as a

hangover of the arrogant state-ownership.

TRAI and TDSAT, which were specifically brought into being to facilitate fair

and fast competition, need to be proactive, and be more helpful to the

challenger than to the incumbent. More importantly, the ministry of

communications must give up its magnificent obsession to protect the revenue

interests of the state-held companies. The minister should not be the CEO of

those companies but the protector and promoter of all fair and legitimate

interests of every company, private or public, for the overall welfare of the

country's consumers. n

Dr Th Chowdary