The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Friday said the decreasing trend in India’s landline subscriber base is a cause of concern as these networks are also used to provide broadband services. A decline in broadband connections due to falling fixed-line subscriptions will hurt the government’s long-term plan of ramping up broadband services.
In the past decade, landline subscriber base has been on a decline, with connections reducing from 36.76 million as of 31 January, 2010 to 20.58 million as of 31 January, 2020. Of the total telecom 1.18 billion connections, only 20.26 million, or less than 2%, were landline as of February.
“The deceasing trend in the fixed line telecom subscriber base is a cause of concern as the same network is also used to deliver fixed line broadband services,” TRAI said.
Mukesh Ambani’s telecom major Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd is trying to make inroads in this untapped fixed-line segment with Jio Fibre launched last year, which includes both landline and fibre-based broadband services.
To improve landline services and provide seamless connection to subscribers of different telecom service providers (TSPs) of landline network within the same area or in other service areas, the regulator today issued amendments to interconnection norms.
The amendments are also aimed at providing certainty to service providers and facilitate adequate, efficient and in-time interconnection among landline networks, TRAI said.
“Within a service area, the location of POI, for calls between two Public Switched Telephone Networks (PSTNs or fixed-line networks) or between PSTN and NLD (National Long Distance) network shall be at such place as may be mutually agreed between the interconnection provider and interconnection seeker,” the regulator said.
According to Rajiv Sharma, head of equity research at SBI Capital Markets Ltd, the amendments will help incentivise and encourage new players to invest in setting up fixed-line networks and promote investments.
The amendments include establishing a common point of interconnection (POI) for calls between two fixed-line networks within a service area, it said. However, these changes will not impact to interconnect usage charge (ICU).
“The changes in level of interconnection does not change the regulatory framework for Interconnect Usage Charges (IUCs),” TRAI said.
In case of failure of mutual agreement between two service providers, the carriage charge for calls will be paid by the seeker to the provider of the interconnection, TRAI added.
The existing POIs at the short-distance charging center (SDCC) level will remain operational for five years or till the time the interconnected service providers decide to close the POIs.
TRAI admitted that the tele-density of fixed-line subscriptions is “abysmally low in the country”, for which the National Digital Communication Policy, 2018, provides special emphasis on promoting the fixed line communication networks. The policy has set a goal of enabling fixed-line broadband access to 50% of households in the country by 2022.