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VNOs must not be ignored in proposed new Telecom Bill

Virtual Network Operators Association of India (VNOAI), representing interests of all the VNOs in India welcome the draft of the Telecom Bill to replace the existing legal framework governing telecommunication in India comprising the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, the Wireless Telegraphy Act,1933 and the Telegraph Wires (Unlawful Possession) Act,1950.

The bill has been well drafted so as to be clearly understood by all the stake holders viz. the whole telecom sector including the IoT and communication apps which are riding on the telecom network regulated by the existing fragmented laws and regulations.

Telecom players including VNO’s have invested in the telecom infrastructure for enabling various services on the networks. Forward looking steps undertaken by Government of India to bring in more reforms in order to make ‘Ease of doing Business’ in the telecom sector is much desired. Following are the points for consideration of the Department of Telecommunications in view of the amendments of the laws to be framed in the proposed Telecom Bill-2022 .No NSO is ready to support the VNO in mobile sector, even the DOT’s own PSU (BSNL) has refused to continue the VNOs on its network.

  • VNOAI expects that the new laws will take care of concept of licensing prescribed to the VNOs as a service delivery and reseller of services segment.
  • Non-taking off of VNOs is hampering the growth of competition specifically in the mobile sector which is now a virtually duopoly market in India.
  • VNO segment which is facing impediments in the levying of License Fee in each category, levying of minimum 10% License Fee.
  • No mandate to MNOs to provide access to VNOs. MNOs treating VNOs as their competitors and not transparent in interactions. VNOs are over dependent on MNO.
  • MNOs do not provide support for the continuity of services of VNO customers and does not extend the agreements; then VNO investment of 300-400 crores is in limbo.
  • Non allowing of multi-parenting to VNOs for mobile.
  • Out of the 10 year License term, six years has lapsed.

TRAI has done wider consultation as per the strategy 2.1(b)(v) of the ‘Propel India’ mission of the National Digital Communications Policy (NDCP-2018) viz ‘Enabling Unbundling of different Layers (e.g., infrastructure, network, services and application layer) through differential Licensing’. The said TRAI recommendations are needed to be adopted under the new laws.

The Govt of India’s vision of Digital India and universal broadband connectivity in the rural and tribal areas of the country can be fulfilled if the VNOs are brought under registration and light touch regulations.

Director General (VNOAI) Rakesh Kumar Upadhyaya Ex CMD (BSNL) and TCIL hopes, “In the new Telecom Act, the Govt will take care of the service delivery and reseller model of (VNOs) which is critical for the healthy competition for consumers in the current duopoly market . Continuity of Services for the VNOs for the License Term (Ten Years) of UL-VNO Licensee to be assured by DOT ROI. In the 5G era, the delivery of services is the crux for the benefit of the end consumers and competition is the need of the hour.”

CT Bureau

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