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TRAI, DoT tussle over licence to access network providers

Telecom regulator TRAI on Tuesday said the telecom department has rejected its recommendations on creating differential licenses without giving any rationale to support the decision. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in its response to the Department of Telecom’s letter dated August 2 also contested the department finding its recommendation on ‘Enabling Unbundling of Different Layers Through Differential Licensing’ similar to the other recommendation on enhancing the scope of telecom infrastructure providers.

The regulator has recommended to the DoT to create a separate category of telecom license for “Access Network Provider” (ANP) that could build a complete telecom network to provide its services as a vendor to telecom operators, internet services companies, among others, on a wholesale basis.

However, ANP should not be allowed to provide to end customers directly.

The government has come to a prima facie conclusion that there may not be market demand for separate ANP licenses.

“DoT has not provided any rationale in support of the said conclusion. It is not clear as to whether DoT has conducted any demand assessment study to ascertain market demand for separate Access Network provider License,” TRAI said.

The regulator said that only if a separate authorisation for ANP is created, it can be tested as to whether there is a market demand for it or not.

“Moreover, creation of a separate authorisation for Access Network Provider is just an enablement and does not involve any cost to the Government,” TRAI said.

The regulator also shared that ANP will have its own core network elements and will also be eligible to apply for assignment of licensed spectrum, while the scope of enhanced Infrastructure Provider as per its recommendation will continue to remain an infrastructure provider for the telecom operators and the ANP.

“Clearly, the scope of the Access Network Provider as recommended by TRAI is completely different from the recommended (enhanced) scope of IP-I. Therefore, it may not be correct to conclude that these two recommendations of TRAI have ‘similar facets’,” TRAI said.

While reiterating its stance on the creation of new licences in the telecom sector, TRAI said the creation of a separate network-only layer in the form of an Access Network Provider license could result in increased sharing of network resources, reduction of cost and enhanced investment in the sector.

“It could also prove to be a catalyst in the proliferation of 5G services for Industrial users, enterprise users, etc., in a localised manner,” TRAI said. PTI

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