Trai (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) chairman RS Sharma has paid no heed to the telecom operators' statements about not allowing unlicensed entities to operate and sell wireless services to the ordinary people. The Trai chief has said that already such entities exist in the market and work in the tower segment of the telecom sector. Trai had made recommendations to the DoT regarding PDOs, a similar entity to PCOs for providing public data services to the people. Sharma has said that the companies would benefit from the move and that they would get additional business. Telcos, on the other hand, hold their ground against the issue and have asked for intervention from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
RS Sharma told his views on this matter to ET, he said “There are many registered entities already operating in telecom space. For example, the infrastructure providers... they don’t have any license but only registrations. Interestingly, if one goes to a hotel or a coffee shop internet is provided. They don’t have a license.”
The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), which represents all the big telecom companies of India has said that this move would prove highly disadvantageous for the carriers. If the plan to install PDOs goes through, then these unlicensed providers will enjoy more benefit as they won’t have to share revenue with the government, unlike the telcos who will be asked to do so in case they give the same services.
The COAI has also said this new recommendation would go against the “Trai Act, 1997 and violate the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885”. The telco highlighted the fact these entities will also not be required to pay any licence fee, spectrum usage charge or any upfront payment for airwaves, which will be a sole expense on the telcos’ part.
RS Sharma, Trai chief is of the opposite view. He said the telcos to “Give us a reason to oppose. We have prepared a registration framework. It is, in fact, benefitting telecom service providers and internet service providers. It is their data which these Public Data Offices would resell.”
Sharma said that the installation of the PDOs would contribute to the audacious goal of Digital India and that it would improve connectivity and lead to a thriving scene in the telecom and digital industry.
It is notable that the Trai had proposed setting up of Public Data Office Aggregators (PDOA) which operate on the same model as the PCOs from old times and avail cheap data services to the users in rural and far-off areas at affordable prices on a need basis. Sharma said about the issue “The Digital India program ultimately requires ubiquitous connectivity, and if one creates Wi-Fi hotspots in millions, it ensures connectivity reaches everywhere. Packs of small denominations are a success in India as average prepaid recharge value is Rs 10 only.”
He further added that the DoT will make the final call on the matter and that Trai has already conducted pilots in Banglore and Noida before submitting its recommendations to the telecommunications department.