The Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) petitioned the country’s Department of Telecoms (DoT) to focus on creating a level playing field when working up a new telecoms policy.
Against a backdrop of falling revenues for the bulk of India’s cellular operators, and an associated wave of merger and acquisition activity, the COAI said an updated telecoms policy should protect operators’ investments by either bringing competing over-the-top (OTT) services under the same rules, or deregulating the market completely, The Hindu Business Line reported.
COAI director general Rajan Mathews (pictured, left) highlighted a current discrepancy regarding OTT companies, which rival mobile operators’ voice services without facing the same costs in terms of licence fees and spectrum charges.
Documents submitted by COAI to the DoT also called for a clear roadmap for spectrum allocation, including a request for regular – five yearly – reviews of the potential release of new radio waves for cellular services. A key element of the request is to ensure no spectrum is provided free of charge, particularly in sub-1GHz bands, the newspaper reported.
In April, COAI members called for the DoT to postpone a spectrum auction planned for H2 2017 by at least 12 months, to allow operators to complete consolidation efforts sparked by the increasingly tough financial situation they face.
Mathews argued COAI’s latest proposals covering telecoms policy would play a part in restoring operators’ to a more solid financial footing, when combined with previous requests covering lower spectrum use fees and reducing Universal Service Obligation charges, The Hindu Business Line stated.
The DoT in June called for India’s finance ministry to lower its estimates for the amount of non-tax revenue due to be collected from mobile operators in the year to end-March 2018, to account for declines in licence and spectrum use income.
India’s operators are locked in a fierce price war sparked by the entry of Reliance Jio in late 2016, prompting the DoT to predict total revenue collected from operators will drop 37 per cent year-on-year to INR295 billion ($4.6 billion) in the year to end-March 2018.
The DoT aims to finalise its updated telecoms policy by the same date, The Hindu Business Line reported.