No floor price for mobile tariffs: Trai

NEW DELHI: Telecom regulator Trai has refused to order a ‘floor price’ – or a minimum mandatory rate – for voice and data tariffs, a move that will ensure that consumers continue to enjoy free or highly subsidised calling and internet plans.

Trai, which met top telcos on Wednesday to work out the regulatory agenda for the next year, was cold to the suggestion made by some of the operators, including Vodafone Idea, sources said. It said that there is no immediate need for any floor price on voice and data, especially as tariffs are under forbearance, that means companies are free to fix the consumer rates, provided they inform the regulator within seven days of its launch.

The companies also pleaded Trai to have a more lenient definition of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) in future in order to factor in their concerns, especially after they have been ordered to pay nearly Rs 1.47 lakh crore by the Supreme Court after it redefined the AGR definition. “The AGR definition should be changed prospectively by Trai, and a recommendation to this effect should be made to the department of telecom,” the operators petitioned the regulator.

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Apart from Vodafone Idea, others present in the meeting – that was chaired by Trai chairman R S Sharma – included senior officials from Airtel, Reliance Jio and BSNL. The regulator’s reluctance on the matter of floor price can also be understood by the fact that companies have announced plans to hike consumer tariffs from December. Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel have said that they will be increasing tariffs from next month, the last two attributing the revision to the tough financial conditions in telecom.

Sources said that older telecom companies also petitioned the regulator that the interconnect usage charge (IUC) rate of 6 paise per minute should be continued and not be done away with from January next year. Trai is currently looking into the matter, and may come out with a regulation very soon.

The matter of IUC is a sensitive one for the telecom industry as Airtel and Vodafone Idea are strongly pitching for maintaining the current rate while Reliance Jio is demanding that it should be brought down to zero.

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