Indian mobile firms agree to connect with limited radius players

Tuesday, 21 January 2003, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: A bitter row over interconnection of the Indian telephone network ended Monday with the private cellular operators agreeing to connect with limited radius phone players on existing terms.

"The cellular industry has agreed for termination of calls of basic players, even WLL (Wireless in Local Loop) services, with immediate effect," Minister for IT and Communications Pramod Mahajan said.

"As far as the issue of access charge is concerned I have requested telecom regulator to come out with a just and fair interconnect regime," Mahajan told mediapersons here after a meeting with the private mobile services provider.

The row over interconnection of phone network had increased in the last couple of weeks with the private mobile firms refusing to accept the Telecom Regulatory and Authority of India's (TRAI) directive on providing access to WLL players.

The situation turned worse last weekend with cellular users in the national capital complaining of disruption in calls from cell to fixed-line phones and vice versa.

The cellular industry has been battling fixed-line phone firms over the introduction of cheaper limited radius mobile services for over two years, saying the WLL operations were not based on "equitable" terms.

By refusing to interconnect, the private mobile operators were preventing users of WLL phone services from calling or receiving telephone calls from cellular phones. TRAI issued notices to the defiant mobile industry players Thursday.

The private mobile firms, on the other hand, maintained they are ready to interconnect with all WLL firms "based on a fair and reciprocal interconnect agreement."

The mobile firms say the TRAI directive asking them to interconnect with WLL players was discriminatory and would hurt the interests of their over 10 million subscribers.

Interconnection agreements among telephone operators allow subscribers of one company to make or receive phone calls from other companies' network.

Mobile phone users currently pay 1.20 as access charge, apart from the airtime fee, each time they make a call to a fixed-line phone or to a WLL or fixed-line phone network.

But fixed-line and WLL phone users calling a mobile phone do not have to pay any access charges. Cellular companies say the regulator should either ask WLL firms to also pay a 1.20 access charge or exempt them from the fee.

The row over the interconnection comes close on the heels of the launch of WLL operations by India's two biggest corporate entities - Reliance Industries and the salt-to-software maker Tata Group.

Both Reliance and Tata have announced sharply lower charges for their WLL operations with a view to garner a larger slice of the country's ballooning mobile phone population.
Source: IANS
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