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Telcos oppose TRAI proposal on relaxing norms for virtual network operators

Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea have opposed the telecom regulator’s proposal to allow virtual network operators (VNOs) to link up with multiple telecom companies in a circle. The telecom operators have argued that the regulator itself had ruled out such an arrangement earlier.

“On looking at the last 15 years of the VNO regime (starting from 2008, when the issue was first brought up for discussion and recommendations issued by TRAI, to 2016 when the VNO licensing regime in India was formalised), what is evident is that the Regulator has discussed, debated and given its recommendations on specific aspects of multi-parenting umpteen times, and reiterated at every point that it does not support multi-parenting,” Airtel said in a letter to the TRAI.

VNOs are operators which do not own any infrastructure or spectrum. They lease capacities from larger telecom operators and then resell data and voice services. Under existing rules, a VNO is allowed to partner with only one telecom operator in an area. TRAI has proposed to allow VNOs to partner multiple players in a bid to make their business case more viable. Only a few VNOs are present in the market due to tough operating conditions.

“All the main 4 telecom operators (i.e. RJIL, Bharti Airtel, VI & BSNL) provide both wireline and wireless services and any multi parenting involving two of these service providers, albeit for separate services, would lead to unnecessary competition and favouritism related issues besides the technical and monitoring related issues,” Reliance Jio said.

“We believe that there is no need to change the prevailing provisions that restrict the VNOs from being parented by more than one telco for access services and other such services which need numbering and unique identity of the customer,” Jio added.

Vodafone Idea said that the consultation paper issued by TRAI does not carry any analysis of the issues nor does it contain any impact assessment of the matter. “It is pertinent to note that through detailed consultative process and recommendations, TRAI had earlier recommended that VNOs be parented to single NSO in case of access services and services which require a unique identity of the customers. TRAI had also observed that a VNO can have parenting with only one NSO for services which require unique identity in terms of numbering, lawful interception, spectrum usages etc,“ the operator said.

“Given that no details have been shared by TRAI on the need for any change or the impact/implications of such change and its effects on the competition, it is our view that the existing position should be maintained and VNOs should not be permitted to tie-up with more than one NSO for wireline/wireless service in an LSA. (service area),” Vodafone Idea said. The Hindu BusinessLine

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